Glenwood Springs voters on Tuesday opposed the annexation of the 480 Donegan property — slamming the brakes on a project that would have provided 300 market-rate rental and affordable units as well as priming redevelopment of the old Glenwood Mall property with new grocery and retail stores.
Developers have said they will move forward with plans to develop the land in Garfield County as a commercial park. Meanwhile, the community’s need to address the growing housing crisis only intensifies.
A 2019 report showed a 2,000-unit gap of unmet demand for housing in Glenwood Springs.
According to a recent Colorado Public Radio story, the median sales price for a single-family home in Glenwood Springs is now around $800,000, up nearly $200,000 since January 2021. And the number of in-commuters to Glenwood has risen to 3,500 a day, up by more than a thousand since 2010.
Those of us who live here aren’t surprised by those figures, as we see the impacts of the lack of accessible and affordable housing every day. That helps to explain why a group of Latinos who participated in a Voces Unidas policy forum in Glenwood Springs last year prioritized home ownership for our workforce, not simply outside inventors, as among their top policy issues.
As an organization, we support and want single-family homes and homeownership for Latinos. We also recognize that we will not solve our housing problems with new single-family homes and subdivisions alone. Another way to address the issue is through increased density. That means embracing the idea of building up - and filling in undeveloped — or underdeveloped — parcels.
As I wrote last month -- the 480 Donegan plan -- and the process that delivered it -- was not perfect. Notably, it showed that the city and developers must improve community engagement - particularly our Latino community - moving forward.
Tuesday’s vote reinforces that thinking and only increases the need for housing solutions that keep Latinos in the community. We should also keep in mind that this “special election” was not the best tool for engagement (roughly 2,400 people participated — about half as many who voted on Glenwood Issue 2A [4,759] in November of 2020, when 85% of eligible Glenwood voters turned out). Elections that aren’t held in November disenfranchise many voters — particularly Latinos. If the goal is for all residents — or as many as possible — to weigh in on the future of Glenwood Springs, we are far from being inclusive of all voices in the community.
The surest way to make our housing crisis worse is through the embrace of the “not in my back yard” mentality or NIMBY-ism.
At Voces Unidas, we are solutions-driven. We will continue to insist on involving Latinos in the planning process; demand that projects are not just “affordable” for teachers and first responders, but equitable for all other working-class families as well; call out racist “dog whistles” in our public discourse; and continue urging residents to say “yes” to providing accessible and affordable housing for locals.
Alex Sánchez is the President and CEO of Voces Unidas de las Montañas and Voces Unidas Action Fund.