Fort Collins is awesome! I knew it when I first looked at CSU for undergrad in 1993. I knew it when I decided on Fort Collins as the home for Community for Sustainable Energy in 2006. Now everyone knows it. The growth and popularity of our town, combined with a greater world view and our place in it, is bringing unprecedented challenges and opportunities to Fort Collins. We can always to do a better job providing basic services such as parks & rec, transportation, and utilities. We need to do a better job working with our city and county neighbors on development issues. We have the privilege, responsibility, and opportunity to be a leader. We can show the world an example of how a community can succeed and thrive, and approach the ideal of sustainability.
To do this requires collaboration and cooperation utilizing the amazing talent that exists in Fort Collins; our university, our dedicated and gifted business community, and our highly educated and motivated citizenry. As a councilmember I will work to bring the community together to leverage our resources to create a thriving city. This is not something that council can do alone. Together we can keep Fort Collins great and create the change that we wish to see in the world.
The blog posts on this site and Facebook outline some of my ideas about how to address our challenges. Please share your opinions and ideas.
The greatest challenge
The greatest challenge confronting Fort Collins confronts us all. We need to find a way to live comfortably and equitably within our means. Living comfortably without impeding others ability to do the same is at the heart of sustainability.
Now here comes the economic hypothesis that I wish to discuss as a community. In Fort Collins that notion of sustainability is challenged in part by a growing rift between high and low income earners and a reduction of the middle class. This is evident in our struggle to keep housing affordable and accessible. High income earners create pressure on the market by simply being able to pay more for the same house, and by demanding more house (bigger, better amenities). Lower and middle income earners are crowded into the rental market creating an imbalance in supply and demand and increased rents. Increased rents attract out-of-town investors seeking to cash in on the rising rents and property values. Now we are caught in a maelstrom: Out-of-town investment creates even greater pressure on rent and home value, attracting even more investors. Before you know it, residential home-buyers are priced out of the market and the lower wage earners must live with more than two roommates or commute from cheaper locations. We need to take steps to reverse this trend.
One way to bring balance to the force is to increase supply, build more housing. We are doing that but it is a temporary solution at best and does not address the root cause. I hypothesize that one thing we need to do is shift our income distribution closer to the median. Only 17% of Fort Collins households earn below area median income (AMI). That means that most of the population can outbid them for housing. Maybe we can shift new upper income growth to other communities to relieve some pressure on the housing market. This will also slow growth and potentially reverse the trend of out-of-town investment. Maybe we should consider rental licensing and a tax on out-of-town landlords. There are a few tools at our disposal to slow growth and increase economic equity. Of course we don’t want to go too far and create a local recession.
These are tricky topics to discuss practically and politically, but if we don’t address it, then Fort Collin will go the route of Boulder.