Housing, and not Hecksel, is the issue
Consternation over the idea of providing housing assistance to Glenwood Springs city manager Jeff Hecksel has come to obscure the more important issue.Housing is indeed quite expensive here. This region has long seen residents moving to the west to find more affordable housing. Now, the western part of the county has seen a jump in housing prices.The hubbub over Hecksel began when some City Council members reported that they were looking at ways to help him with housing because of his difficulty buying a home in the Glenwood area since moving here about a year and a half ago.Not surprisingly, not everyone is sympathetic to Hecksel’s situation, given that he earns about $108,000 per year. Soon people were speculating about his ability to manage his personal finances, and pointing out what level of home he should be able to buy with that salary.Some of the criticism has gotten a bit personal, even if it’s to be expected for someone in Hecksel’s high-profile, taxpayer-funded position. It should be remembered that he never asked for housing assistance; council members were the ones suggesting it. And it was a responsible thing to consider as council looks at ways to try to make sure a city manager who has been doing a good job is inclined to stay on the job for years to come.Employee retention is key to stability.Part of being happy living and working in Glenwood, for Hecksel and for most people, is being able to buy a home anything like the more affordable dwellings they left behind to move here. Another part of it is having the luck to seal the deal. In a super-hot real estate market, sometimes even offering full asking price isn’t enough to end up with a contract on a home, as Hecksel learned to his chagrin.Some in the real estate industry point out people earning far less than Hecksel are able to buy homes locally. That is true, and fortunately more flexible financing options exist today than decades ago, and low interest rates also have enabled more people to qualify for purchases.But it’s also a fact that many residents of the Glenwood area and elsewhere in Colorado end up spending a higher percentage of their monthly income on their mortgage than in other parts of the country. And Colorado’s nation-leading foreclosure rate shows the perils that accompany the ability to borrow more to buy a home these days. With interest rates now rising, the challenge of keeping up on payments is even worse for those who bought homes with adjustable rate mortgages.It now appears council is abandoning its idea of providing housing help for Hecksel, although it is considering offering him a healthy salary hike. Meanwhile, however, Mayor Bruce Christensen continues to hope that sometime the city can offer some form of housing assistance to all its employees. Considering that many of those employees earn far less than Hecksel, that’s a worthwhile goal.After all, with some council members who work in professional positions admitting that they couldn’t afford to live in Glenwood if they hadn’t bought their homes long ago, there’s no denying Glenwood’s housing problem is real.
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