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To The Editor:

Now that our Board of County Commissioners is ready to deal with Chaffee County’s lack of affordable workforce housing, it’s important to differentiate the symptom, which is the lack of workforce housing, from the disease, which is the overinflation of our local real estate market.

In my opinion, Colorado’s “red-hot” real estate market is proving to be more of a curse than a blessing throughout our state.  The fact is, home prices are rising much faster than our public and private sector incomes.  Running as fast as they can, our public and private sectors simply can’t keep their employee’s salaries on par with our rapidly rising costs of housing.

To emphasize that point, an article appearing on page A2 of the Aug. 20 Denver Post (Keystone Policy Center Report) states that, just seven years ago, a teacher in the St. Vrain Valley School District making $53,000 per year could afford to buy nearly 50 percent of homes within the school district.  Today, that same teacher making $65,000 per year can afford only 9 percent of the homes within that same school district.

Since the rising price of housing is a primary driver of the high cost of living, we are beginning to see why our public agencies, healthcare facilities, schools, and small businesses are struggling to pay a living wage while at the same time providing affordable goods and services for workforce families.

Even as our current real estate boom has flooded the coffers of local governments with record tax revenues, we now find ourselves going hat-in-hand to local voters for property tax increases and reallocations of revenues to build housing for our workforce-starved economy.

But supporting employee housing with public funding is never a good solution.  While apartment living is a good fit for seasonal workers and single people, it’s not a good fit for the workforce and middle-income families wanting their own homes.

What to do?  The short-term solution is public housing. The long-term solution is doing less of throwing our workforce economy to the wolves by courting high-end real estate development and more to creating an affordable workforce economy for the wage earners and middle-income families.

Think about that the next time you need a good electrician, a good auto mechanic, or a good school for your kids.

Gary E. Goms

Buena Vista