Zalaznick: Does Vail really need homes? |

Zalaznick: Does Vail really need homes?

Matt Zalaznick
Vail, CO Colorado

When a real estate office turns into a blue-collar campground for a night, that means there’s an affordable housing crisis, right?

Well, sure, people skipping work to sit in line in a hallway just to pick up an application (for homes they won’t move into for more than a year) might look like a warning that there’s a shortage of places to live, but it’s a hardly a “bad sign.”

It shows people are finally taking responsibility for their problems instead of whining and moaning about soaring rents and mortgages. I mean, cry me a river, right?

When you were young and grateful for the hourly wage you were earning, did you expect the government to house you? No, by golly. That would’ve been an insult, if not an outrage, forcing you to challenge the county housing director to pistols at dawn.

You lived in a treehouse in a blizzard if you had to, you slept underneath school buses to make ends meet, you shared an overturned canoe with 12 roommates.

What will young workers want next: subsidized cars? Public assistance to buy ski equipment? Raises that keep up with the cost of living? Reasonable health care?

Forget government ” it’s the workers-who-would-be-housed, the ones doing all the complaining, who have not done enough to ensure they have roofs to sleep under.

Developers complain, rightly, that in this overheated housing market there’s too little financial incentive to build “affordable” homes at below-market rates. Plus, there’s a labor shortage and illegal workers with legitimate-looking documents, which honest builders have to contend with.

I have a solution: Workers who want places to live that cost less than 40 percent of their paychecks should volunteer to build affordable housing complexes, a la Habitat for Humanity.

That would cut the developer’s costs and take away the worry of accidentally hiring undocumented drywallers and carpenters.

Can anyone say “win-win situation?”

Or perhaps we should stop pestering developers with such unprofitable projects and ask our second-home owners to be a part of the solution. Oh, I’m not suggesting they should let lifties and waitresses sleep in their mansions, which are unoccupied 92 percent of the year. But the second-home owners could open their alpine palaces for tours.

That would get employees out of the cold for a few hours. Because when the developers are set free to pursue the most profitable, fractionally ownable projects, most working stiffs will be sleeping in their cars.

But hey, that precedent’s already been set. Didn’t you read the story about the Beaver Creek ski instructor who’d been sleeping in his van since Christmas? The key to that story was he had a job. Living in his vehicle didn’t stop him from making a living!

And that’s the main thing, right? Perhaps we should expand our definition of housing to mean something that doesn’t necessarily involve an actual “house.” There are other “things” in which people can live: cars, tents, underpasses, Dumpsters, teepees, yurts, igloos, parked railroad cars, caves unoccupied by hibernating bears.

But the local media, which is notoriously pro-homeless-shivering-unwashed worker, has tricked the business community into believing the area’s labor shortage is a result of this alleged “housing crunch.”

Well, businesses should just force their two or three best employee to work two or three extra shifts in a row. That way, the workers will fall asleep right on Bridge Street ” or preferably some less visible corner of the village ” because they’ll be too exhausted to drive or bike back to the homes that don’t exist anyway.

Win-win and win! If there are no homes, we simply just eliminate the need for them.

Assistant Managing Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 748-2926, or

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