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Mountain News: Employee housing may lose value

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ASPEN, Colo. - How strange is this? Some owners of deed-restricted employee housing in Aspen or Pitkin County could lose money if they sell their units.

To keep affordable housing affordable, deed restrictions limit annual appreciation to three to five per cent. In most years, market values of real estate in Aspen have increased by the double-digits.

But the sharp downturn in real estate has dragged down the consumer price index, which is used to help calculate sales prices of affordable housing units. As such, anybody who bought an employee unit when the market was high and tries to sell now would lose money, reports The Aspen Times .

Ghosts of the past

TELLURIDE, Colo. - It's always quiet in Telluride during early May, but this year it was even quieter. In Vail, the report is the same. "It's eerie," says one town official.

People like Myles Rademan, once of Crested Butte and now of Park City, both former mining towns, have long pointed out that people caught up in the heyday of gold and silver booms couldn't fully grasp an ebbing of activity. Yet, by the 1950s, places like Kellogg, Idaho, and Breckenridge, Colorado, were ghost towns - not abandoned, but ghosts of their former selves.

Telluride was also one of those towns. Mining there persisted into the 1970s, just when downhill skiing arrived. Still, the activity was a shadow of the boom years 80 and 90 years before, when the town supported several newspapers, had the world's first electrified street lights, and in other ways distinguished itself as a warren of activity.

Telluride resident Emily Brendler Shoff, writing in The Denver Post, wonders if spring provides a glimpse of what it's like when a mining town is vacated.

"It's a desolate time," she writes of the shoulder season. "The wind howls, the trees are bare, and the snow continues to fall. The trails are covered in snow and mud. And there is nothing to do, except stroll to the post office and pick up your mail and stroll back again. If you're lucky, you see someone."

Shoff does not descend into despair, but she can't help but wonder what future historians, strolling amid a vacated Telluride, would think of the rows of skis outside of everyone's homes, the cruiser bikes, and the drained hot tubs?

And who hasn't paused beside some old mine adit in the forest, wondering about the use of this or that old piece of equipment, amazed at the lust for a mineral that drove people to haul such heavy machinery into remote places?

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