Nick Fickling: Neither GOP nor Dems get affordable housing in Eagle County |

Nick Fickling: Neither GOP nor Dems get affordable housing in Eagle County

Nick Fickling
Vail, CO, Colorado

Democrats believe that government can be a force for good and is needed to ensure the proper regulation of society and the protection of individual rights. To Democrats, government can be, and often has been, the solution.

Republicans believe that minimizing the involvement of government in people’s lives and cutting regulation and red tape will free up the entrepreneurial spirit that is in us all.

By allowing Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” free rein, Republicans believe a natural balance will be reached with smaller government and so a lower cost to the taxpayer.

Between the two extremes of big government, left-wing liberals and laissez-faire right-wing conservatives, there are those of us who see a need for some government involvement in our lives, but not too much.

Our candidates for Eagle County commissioner seem split along clear party lines.

The Democrats, Peter Runyon and Jon Stavney, want to get more efficiency into deed-restricted housing by having the county run a one stop shop Home Store for those seeking such homes.

The Republicans, Dick Gustafson and Debbie Buckley, want the county to step away from any involvement in something that they feel is best run by existing private sector businesses.

They all appear to agree that affordable housing is needed in Eagle County, but are divided in how it should be achieved. What surprises me is that none of them are questioning the very existence of affordable housing in our community.

The trouble with affordable housing is that it creates a two-tier housing market with some homes priced by government regulation and others priced by the free market.

The Democrats seem to ignore the way that helping people into homes through affordable housing also works to reinforce the divide in society between the haves and the have-nots. In the short term it helps people afford to survive in Eagle County, but at the same time it does tend to trap them in pseudo-socialized housing.

Republicans seem happy to ignore the artificial regulation of pricing inherent in affordable housing and rent control, which runs counter to their stated philosophy. Is it because businesses use employee housing to tie workers to their employment and at the same time have a way of subsidizing employment costs, so boosting their bottom line? This seems strange, as Republicans are traditionally opposed to subsidies and tariffs.

In Eagle County, affordable housing and rent control allows employers to avoid paying employees at the level they would have to if there was a free market in housing.

The Democrats go along with this, presumably because they see it as a way of helping the workers survive and yet fail to realize that in the long run it sacrifices their political philosophy and goal of achieving social equity.

There is a solution that would be compatible with both parties:

Pay wages in Eagle County that reflect the true cost of living in the valley. This would eliminate the need for any kind of subsidized housing, which would in turn reduce the involvement and cost of government. The Republicans should like that, and the Democrats should appreciate the improved pay and social equity. There would be rises in the cost of many things, but in our tourist valley such costs would primarily be passed on to the visitors.

Unfortunately, such a change is unlikely to happen as long as we have politicians with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

Instead we are likely to continue to see faux Democrats and faux Republicans scrapping over a system that runs counter to both of their philosophies.

Nick Fickling is retired from the British military and lives in the Vail Valley. He can be reached at

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