One of the things I love about being an editor is going to meetings, forums, focus groups and awards banquets. I get to meet a lot of different people and listen to a lot of opinions, discussions and topics.
Recently, in a roundtable discussion, a group of us talked about housing affordability. In that discussion, we talked about how our workforce is being pushed out of the housing market completely. Of course, in asking why — some of the answers that sadly are reality — worries me.
When I say workforce, I am talking about our teachers, our police officers, our firefighters, our government employees and those who make our everyday lives possible. However, somehow, society has decided they are also the people we do not want as our neighbors. We have communities saying: Come here and work and teach our children, protect us, take care of our needs — but do not live here.
The problem with this mentality is the valued workforce is going to move on. We are going to get fewer of them in our communities as they move to states and towns where people want them. That is our loss.
My son’s kindergarten teacher, a 20-year educator and an awesome person, said she grew up in a house behind the school she currently teaches. However, on her salary, she couldn’t afford to live there now. Is that really the kind of world we want?
The idea that renters bring down our communities is also just nonsense. To afford to live in most of the housing communities in Douglas County and most of Arapahoe County — the rent costs are more than my mortgage. We have great neighbors who rent. We had horrible neighbors, who fortunately moved away, who owned their home.
Perception is everything these days, and I am having a hard time understanding the belief some have about affordable housing creating a community nuisance.
Having loud groups fight every time a developer or elected body tries to bring more affordable options into a community has to change. That change has to come from those casting the votes. At some point, our elected officials have to take a stand and say a strong, steady workforce is what is needed to keep an economy on track. They have to start voting and finding solutions that help working families survive.
This trickles down to those young adults just entering the workforce as well. In listening to a 20-year-old out of college, he said he is living with his dad and there is no way he could afford to live in Douglas County where he grew up. There are no options for him.
That means our young, educated workforce will seek employment elsewhere and another state’s gain is going to be our loss. It is a loss we might now feel now but we will in the future.
For those fighting the affordable housing concept — go back to your younger days when you were trying to find your footing in this world. Would you have been as successful in a market like we have today? How would you have gotten your first apartment? Paid for your first home?
We need to create growth and opportunity for all levels of society and not just a select few who think they deserve the best houses, best views and best of everything without giving up something in return.
Thelma Grimes is the south metro editor for Colorado Community Media.