Safe, Suitable, Affordable Housing in Crisis

edited April 2016 in Opinion

This originally appeared on

"Where there is no vision, the people perish." - Proverbs 29:18

There's no worse feeling than being proven right by a disaster after your calls for action went unheeded.

Some people in our county sounded the alarm about an impending housing crisis 10-12 years ago. We were overruled by those who said there was no cause for concern, the free market would take care of everything, even if that meant people earning minimum wage would somehow commute from Saguache, Leadville, or Fairplay to work in our businesses. Now we have a full-blown, in extremis housing crisis on our hands, one that will take extraordinary measures to even begin to overcome. We are not in damage-prevention mode; we are in damage control mode.

We even had a blessing-in-disguise - the Great Recession - to give us a strategic pause and time to prepare with visionary policies and public-private, community-wide coordination and cooperation.

Now we have employers who can't keep staff because their employees can't find safe, suitable, housing that is affordable. We aren't talking luxuries here - we're talking the lower levels of Mazlow's Hierarchy of Human Needs. Anyone who looked around the West could have seen this coming, yet somehow we thought we were more clever, more blessed, somehow exceptional.

Self-styled economics experts should know prevention is more efficient and less costly than repair and recovery. Didn't we learn maxims like "an ounce of prevention prevents a pound of cure" and "a stitch in time save nine" at the feet of our family values-driven elders?

The time to prevent a crisis is when there is still time and opportunity to do so.


  • There's a ton of housing right downtown above the shops. Most of these apartments are empty as far as I can tell. I saw one recently which rents for $800. No hot water, the small bed takes up half the floor space, the hallway is trashed like it hasn't been cleaned in years. It might be more efficient to get these landlords some incentive to be humane rather than build minihomes.

  • Good point, David. Tiny houses, multi-family, subsidized, ADUs - none of these alone will solve the problem. Incentivizing these landlords to clean those apartments up is one component. (These sound like they should be highly-desirable apartments based on their location - wonder why they haven't been fixed up already?)

  • There is a lot of discussion about the lack of affordable housing in many venues -- but what are the critical statistics? I.e. the number of housing units required over the next 5 to 10 years, the window of rent affordability, etc.? Knowing these can help identify appropriate solutions.

  • The City and County are doing a housing study right now. Results should be in in about two months.

  • A relevant discussion will be held during a portion of the May 3rd City Council Meeting:
    Council Chambers, Touber Building, 448 E 1st St, 6 to 8pm.
    The public has been invited to share their opinions.

    I'm very worried about the loss of affordable housing in Salida, but also about changes to the integrity of the neighborhoods. The flavor, cohesiveness, and security of neighborhoods are built over time, as generations make their marks and develop networks to know and help each other. When vacation rentals are scattered throughout, it becomes harder to build relationships and develop a recognizable and safe environment. It's no fun living in hotel row, not if you're trying to create and nurture a home. I listened to a discussion like this at a recent City Council meeting and at a public hearing before that. I know it's an ongoing issue in Salida, as it has been for years throughout the state. I believe, as many of us do, that Salida is well positioned at this crossroads to develop a plan that just might succeed, at least in part, in building/protecting this community's unique vision for a friendly future. I'm a latecomer to the debate, but I've been watching and caring for a long time.

  • edited April 2016

    Have you ever noticed how many ethnic restaurants provide housing for their employees? I know many Chinese restaurants have a house or two on the side just for them and are compensated with cheap labor. Perhaps this ploy could be adjusted to meet the housing needs of our workers as well as retention needs of the employer.

  • Tonight at Council they will have the 2nd reading of the Ordinance requiring short term rentals to register with the City. If you have anything to say, this would be a good time to say it. I spoke up last month about reining in short term rentals. Since then I have been stopped on the street 10 times by friends and strangers who thanked me for speaking up about my concerns, which they share. More voices make more impact, so don't be shy! I find that notes are very helpful for people who are uncomfortable speaking in public, so I recommend making some notes so you say what you mean to say.

  • Thanks for speaking up last night, Bill Smith.

Sign In or Register to comment.