Wind Sprints: Momentum to address Summit County housing crisis builds (column)
September 23, 2016
Finding a place to live in Summit County is like a game of musical chairs. There is always a sense of panic that you're going to be the one left standing when the record stops.
If you haven't found your forever home in Summit yet, then you're likely always on the hustle for the next thing. A landlord decides to put the place you're leasing on the market, a friend tells you he knows a guy who's got a great place for rent, and bam, just like that, you're smack-dab in the middle of loading mattresses into a buddy's trailer.
For me, that means moving me and mine next month into the first real single-family home we've lived in since arriving four years ago. It will be the fourth place we've inhabited in our short tenure here. I imagine the anxiety — and finally the relief and excitement — my family recently felt was similar to what Norma Quezada experienced when she signed the lease on her Wildernest apartment this summer.
Quezada's story was featured in the first installment of our new weekly series, Housing Divided. (The title is a play on the phrase Abraham Lincoln famously pulled from the Gospel of Mark: "A house divided against itself cannot stand.")
Though the first story focused on the somewhat dire picture illustrated by a housing needs study released this month, I feel that the series will ultimately be a hopeful one. Why? Because when I visited with Quezada and her family earlier this week, I saw strength and dignity, not desperation. Quezada's apartment was small, but cozy and nicely decorated. It felt like a home.
I'm no Pollyanna. Any way you slice it, our housing crisis is severe. By 2020, we'll need to build 1,685 new units to keep up with demand. It will take unswerving commitment to come close to that goal. Luckily, we have community commitment in spades.
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Our towns and county government officials, as well as nonprofit groups like The Summit Foundation and the Family Intercultural Resource Center, are on a mission to provide lasting solutions to the problem. Residents have bought in to the cause as well, voting last November to support a tax to continue funding for the Summit Combined Housing Authority. Some second-home owners and landlords are even rethinking the highly profitable short-term rental model out of a sense of moral obligation.
The momentum is building like never before. That's why the Daily decided that now was the time to tell the story of housing in Summit County.
Over the next four months, Summit Daily reporters will chronicle the lives of the people entwined in this endlessly complex issue. We'll talk with firefighters, teachers, police officers, lifties, government officials, nonprofit groups, developers, landlords, and second-home owners, among others. To be sure, we've covered this subject consistently over the past few years, but this project marks the first time we're attempting to explore housing in an organized and comprehensive way. We have a plan in place for 13 installments, but we want your feedback along the way. Reach out to us. Tell us what we're missing and what we could do better.
Stay tuned. A new story will roll out every Thursday.
Ben Trollinger is the editor of the Summit Daily News. Contact him at (970) 668-4618 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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