Miller: Liddick misses point on affordable housing
Ryan Summerlin December 25, 2012
Re: “Corporate welfare,” by Morgan Liddick, column, Dec. 19
In his recent column, Morgan Liddick heaps all the blame for the need for affordable-housing subsidies in Summit County on the evil ski corporations, which simply won’t pay a living wage. Thus is the deficit between low wages and high housing costs foisted onto the unwary taxpayer.
While it’s true that the ski industry underpays its employees and is certainly part of the problem, the bigger issue is the tilted playing field that results in a resort area where housing prices are skewed wildly upward due to the market for second homes and other vacation housing. Even in the depths of the recession, when housing prices dropped significantly, the average worker making the average wage couldn’t touch a halfway decent home anywhere in the county.
Except, of course, in those areas where forward-thinking officials and builders had offered assistance. If you believe, as many do, that home ownership is part of the foundation of creating sustainable communities, then you know that affordable housing subsidies and other tools to encourage lower-cost building are critical to that effort. Liddick purports to be concerned about worker wages, but at the heart of his argument is the tired conservative mantra that taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for much of anything, and that, somehow, the magical “free market” will work it all out.
Back on Earth here in Summit County, we know – and have known for years – that progressive policies to help teachers, cops, ski workers and others get into a home of their own is the best way to keep them around to be part of a community. Just ask anyone who’s ever had to commute from Alma, Leadville, Georgetown or Fairplay how engaged they can be in community life when all their time is spent either working or commuting.
Perhaps someday meaningful work can be done to shame or compel the ski industry into paying a living wage (ski workers’ unions, anyone?), but until that time, we should help those we can with the tools at hand. Happily, it works out that the bulk of the county’s property and sales taxes are paid by the vacation and second-home owners who caused the problem in the first place.
Editor’s Note: Alex Miller is the former managing editor of the Summit Daily.