Tiny Tuesday: Employee Housing in Aspen (plus an action)

Aspen, Colorado faces a problem common to many swanky ski towns: resort employees can’t afford to live there. Skico, which owns Aspen/Snowmass, is trying to solve the problem this year using tiny houses.

For this season’s experimental run, Skico bought six trailer units and placed them next to an RV park. This Aspen Times article reports that rent is expected to be $600 a month, about 40% of the gross income of a full-time employee earning Colorado minimum wage. (Rent is per person, but it’s not clear how many employees will occupy each unit.) If the arrangement works for employees, employer, and the community, Skico expects to buy more units next year, aiming to close a 600-bed shortfall in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The experimental units, purchased from Sprout Tiny Homes, are quite upscale – this is Aspen, after all. Ample soundproofing and dual lofts with privacy walls make the houses comfortable for employees to share. The price tag of $100,000 apiece makes them a poor return on investment for Skico, especially if the houses are only occupied seasonally. I must conclude that Skico is driven not only by profit but also by the virtue of providing more affordable (or at least attainable) housing to a community that needs it.

Inside a new tiny employee house in Aspen.

Today’s action: find out if your community has an affordable housing group or committee. If it does, attend their next meeting. If not, consider starting one. To find out your community’s position on affordable housing, begin by calling or emailing your local zoning department.

Sample text: Dear Zoning Administrator, My name is Scott Silverstein and I am concerned about the price of housing in my community. Please inform me if this town has an ongoing plan for developing and maintaining affordable housing. If there is a committee dedicated to this subject, I would like to attend their next meeting. Thank you for your time.

Thanks to Brett Silverstein.

About the Author Scott

When I decided as a teenager that I would become an engineer, what I really wanted to do was build houses. But then I went to college and got tricked into thinking I should work for a big company, design big structures, and make lots of money. With a professional license in my pocket, it's time to get back to following my dreams, and I hope my perspective can teach you something new.

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