Housing crisis cannot be resolved without inclusion in the solution
It could be said that the road to affordable housing is paved with good intentions. Unfortunately, those good intentions have not always resulted in equitable housing or benefited local Latino communities as much as other groups in the Central Mountains.
Housing, as a topic, is nothing new. Many towns and counties in Colorado already have housing authorities and programs. Large employers have taken it upon themselves to build housing for some of their employees and several nonprofits have made housing their mission.
But with available funding recently reviving the housing conversation, new initiatives and public discussions are taking place in almost every community. Unfortunately, one constant remains: Latinos are often missing from the debates, discussions, and, more importantly, from the convener’s table.
Our absence is not because Latinos don’t care or are not engaged in housing policy. Often, it’s because we are not invited to be equals in these discussions or decision-making tables. We are not invited to inform or help create the agenda and, as a result, don’t see ourselves reflected in the agenda.
Take, for example, the Regional Summit on Equitable Solutions recently held in Aspen. Voces Unidas de las Montañas was originally invited to attend. However, the event was rescheduled for a date that no longer worked for us due to our own “summit” on housing and other policy issues in Denver with more than 300-plus Latinos from throughout Colorado. We had other reservations, as well.
Voces Unidas leaders have been active in helping to create policy and approve funding for more equitable models of housing. We know housing is a complex issue. But in order to resolve it, we also know we need Latinos involved in every step. Designing models without those impacted serving as architects of the solution themselves is a bad strategy that we would argue has done a disservice to the Latino community in the Roaring Fork Valley and in the Central Mountain region.
It’s not an overstatement to say the Latino community has endured the brunt of the affordable housing crisis in the Roaring Fork Valley and throughout the central mountains of Colorado. Latinos have long comprised a substantial share of the service-industry workforce in resort communities like Aspen, Snowmass, Vail, Beaver Creek, and others. And we have likewise suffered from associated economic and housing inequities that push us further and farther from the places we work.
You can’t solve the housing problem without those most impacted by the solution included in all of the conversations. We don’t want to be audience members, watching policy made for us rather than with us. We deserve the courtesy of being allowed to help solve the problems that affect us by playing an integral role in designing and leading the solutions that will work for us.
History has taught us that good intentions do not always equate to good impacts. As we think about all these creative solutions, inclusive solutions, let’s make sure we do right by the people.
We can do better, and we must. For our inequitable housing crisis is not going to solve itself.
Alex Sánchez is the founder and CEO of Voces Unidas de las Montañas and Voces Unidas Action Fund, two Latino-created, Latino-led non-profit organizations working in Summit, Lake, Eagle, Pitkin, and Garfield counties.