By many accounts, there are few issues facing our neighbors to the east and upvalley that are more critical than housing. It’s a topic I was reminded of last week when reading that Carbondale Mayor Stacey Bernot, citing an opportunity that was too good to pass on, announced her upcoming move to Redstone and her resignation.
Perhaps what grabbed me most was the shock of it. I’m rarely stunned by the content when I flip through the local paper, because in this digital age we’re all constantly communicating throughout the day, everyday. Even if I have not read the story, I generally know the day before what is going to be in the paper the next morning.
While a surprise, the story sounded eerily familiar. Eight days earlier, New Castle Mayor Bob Gordon announced his resignation because of his move to Battlement Mesa. It was an opportunity too good to pass on, as Gordon said. (Sound familiar?)
Housing here is very much a game of opportunity — you have to strike while the iron is hot, if it’s ever hot. While my colleagues at the Post Independent have done a phenomenal job of documenting the issue upvalley, the documentation in our neck of the woods is non-existent, at least during my tenure.
What is the housing situation here in western Garfield County?
It’s a question I asked myself earlier this spring when I learned my rent was increasing. I remember asking the landlord if I could lock in my original rate if I signed a longer-term lease. His exact response escapes me, but he said something to the effect of “you should really be paying even more than the new, more expensive rate.”
Having spent two weeks, prior to that discussion, regularly checking newspaper ads, Craigslist and Facebook swap pages, it was hard to argue with my landlord.
There were, as of Monday night, places to rent here in Rifle. A few were even cheaper than what I paid before the rent increase. But none of those places appear as nice as the two-bedroom I rent now.
For the sake of clarity, I do not live in a luxurious rental. It’s a duplex originally built in 1978, and my floor is somewhere between 700 and 1,000 square feet, which is admittedly more room than I need. It has a yard, but pets are not allowed.
The real reason why I love my current place is the 10 minute walk to downtown and the spectacular view of the Roan Plateau from my back deck. It’s pretty hard to complain, and with few other options I decided to tighten my belt and fork over the additional money each month.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I don’t have a family to support and, for the time being, I can make the adjustment without having to switch to a strict diet of ramen noodles.
How many of our neighbors find themselves in similar situations and are not as lucky as me?
This is one of the questions I intend to explore in the coming months with a story series offering an in-depth look at the local housing landscape.
In the immediate future, I’m asking for your suggestions and ideas in approaching this broad topic. Plans to host a housing-focused forum here in Rifle are still in the works. More details hopefully to come in the future.
Rifle and its neighboring communities continue to hold the reputation of being bedroom communities. To what degree is another question worth exploring, but the “bedroom community” brand seems to perpetuate the idea that anyone can just come here when they cannot afford to live in Carbondale or Glenwood Springs.
Preliminary conversations with some local officials and experts paint a different picture. As we move into summer, I aim to provide some clarity as to what the real picture looks like.
Ryan Hoffman made an earnest effort to refrain from using the line “the rent is too damn high” in this column. You can reach him at 970-685-2103 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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