Summit Daily editor’s column: Affordable housing will take a village
August 6, 2016
I had just finished reading (reciting, really) the first section of his inspiring, beautifully written Facebook post when he sidled into the Summit Daily conference room. It was standing room only for our first-ever What's Brewing, a monthly gathering where we attempt to hash out solutions to community problems with the help of our readers.
Eric Ojala was already a kind of celebrity among the group of more than 35 souls when he entered the room. Something he had written recently on Facebook about housing in Summit County had gone viral.
But it isn't what you think. Eric wasn't complaining about being unable to find decent, affordable housing. No, Eric is a landlord. But he's a landlord with a big heart — one who is committing to sticking to his principles instead of the profit motive. For him that means not demanding first, last and deposit. It means not turning his property into a short-term rental, ever.
Eric, a pastor at Elements Church in Dillon, has given us permission to publish his piece, which we will do in the Sunday paper. I promise not to steal his thunder here, but what Eric wrote provides such a fresh, powerful and compassionate perspective on the topic of housing that I couldn't wait to express my admiration for it. I'm eager to learn more about him.
Friday morning's meeting was like that: One insightful viewpoint after another from the engaged Summit citizens who crammed into our tiny offices to sip coffee and nosh on bagels. (As Roy Scheider might have said, "We're gonna need a bigger boat — and more bagels.")
It was an impressive cross section of folks, from second-home owners and paralegals to ski resort employees and war veterans. Not everyone agreed on solutions, but we were of one mind on this: Addressing Summit County's housing needs is going to take a village. It will require government, homeowners and big employers working together.
Some ideas at the meeting focused on economics: Give homeowners tax breaks to provide long-term rentals or to build lock-off units. Some ideas were more right-brained: Boot Gordon, owner of the Foam Dome in Silverthorne, unfurled beautiful renderings of fanciful castles and garden cities. Some ideas were au courant: Tiny home villages. Other ideas were in the tax-and-spend vein: Jennifer Kermode, the executive director of the Summit Combined Housing Authority, announced a ballot initiative for November that would generate more than $8 million annually for workforce housing. The housing authority also highlighted its program to connect second-home owners who rarely stay in their Summit properties with long-term renters. My head is still spinning.
Though the meeting only lasted an hour and a half, we at the Daily walked away with a multitude of story ideas and more than 35 new allies. Not a bad way to spend a Friday morning. Join us next time on Sept. 2 when the topic of conversation will be mental health in the High Country.
Ben Trollinger is the managing editor of the Summit Daily News. Contact him at (970) 668-4618 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.