Monthly Archives: September 2005

Health insurance indicators

Starbucks and GM have a lot in common: they are large companies, recognizable brands, and their economic fortunes can inform us on the state of the U.S. economy. They have one other thing in common – both companies currently spend more on health care insurance that they do on the raw materials to make their products.

But large corporations aren’t the only ones scratching their heads about increasing health insurance costs. A recent report by Kaiser Family Foundation claims that the annual average family policy is now over $10,000.

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Vacationing all year long

The tourists and second home owners of Colorado’s mountain communities have decided to increase their stake in the mountains. From 1990 to 2000, U.S. Census Bureau figures for eight Colorado resort counties show that primary residences became the dominant housing type – growing from 53 percent of the market to 62 percent. They also accounted for more than 90 percent of the increase in the housing stock in that time.

This trend is one of the factors leading the State Demographer’s Office to project that the combined population of Eagle, Grand, Garfield, Summit, Pitkin and Routt counties will more than double from 192,000 to 389,000 by 2030.

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Salt Lake Housing Authority buys trailer park

It’s a story heard too many times across the rapidly growing West: a trailer park owner wants to evict trailer residents to redevelop the property to serve a higher income clientele. Trailer park residents, who often live in old trailers unfit to me moved usually lose any investment they made in their tenuous property, have few options but to move on.

But given the lack of affordable housing in many Western states, some local governments are beginning to see trailer parks as a critical supply of affordable housing that their commuity can’t ‘afford’ to lose.

So in Salt Lake City, activists and elected officials took an unusal approach when they learned about the fate of a 25 unit trailer park — they bought it. After seven months of tedious negotiation, the Salt Lake Housing Authority persuaded a trailer park owner to sell his property to the county for $1.2 million, ensuring that the families in mostly fixed-income community would not have to relocate to make way for condominiums. The county purchased the Park Hill property with the help of a $700,000 loan from Fannie Mae and two deferred loans from the state and the county, each in the amount of $275,000.

Given the challenges of affordable housing across the Western U.S., it may be time for more local governments to adopt Salt Lake’s strategy.

(Note: Pitkin County, CO has already taken this approach with several of its trailer parks. They have also taken the innovative next step of enabling local residents to purchase their lots with a deed restriction to preserve affordability.)

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Arizona communities in affordable housing crunch

A new report released by the Arizona Department of Housing shows that home prices in the state’s rural areas are climbing so high that many teachers, firefighters, police officers, nurses, government employees and retail workers can’t afford to live there.

High housing costs are making it difficult for Flagstaff to attract city employees and college professors. Payson can’t recruit enough new police officers. In Yuma, many retail workers must work two jobs to buy a home. Restaurant workers in Lake Havasu are commuting more than 60 miles a day to find affordable housing.

In Flagstaff, the median home price is $252,000, and it would take an hourly wage of $35.07 to afford to buy a home. The northern Arizona city’s average hourly wage for employees is $11.04.

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SF Freeway becomes pedestrian oriented boulevard

The double-decker freeway that once cut through Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, a concrete monster that served as a haven for drugs and prostitution and cast unwelcoming shadows over the area, is gone. In its place is a boulevard, which was designed not just with cars in mind, but pedestrians and bicyclists — a linear park where there was once only asphalt and concrete.

The city has plans to build up to 900 units of new housing — 50 percent deemed affordable — on the parcels along the boulevard that once served as the freeway right of way.

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Inspiration in the classroom

In the song “New York, New York,” Frank Sinatra sings, “If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere.” What Rafe Esquith and his students have accomplished in the inner-city of Los Angeles is an inspiration and a challenge to schools everywhere. They have shown how kids, in the most difficult of conditions, can not only become only great students, but great people as well. They raise the bar far beyond any standarized test.

Rafe Esquith’s book (There Are No Shortcuts) and the documentary on his class (the Hobart Shakespeareans) should be required reading and viewing for all parents, teachers, and school administrators.

I-70 corridor could foster more regional cooperation

Interstate 70 is Colorado’s main artery into the mountains. It dumps millions of tourists, cars, and mag chloride into the communities along its corridor. Concern over how the I-70 corridor is managed and improved have a coalition of 31 local governments and businesses thinking regionally. They are exploring the best way to get organized to ensure their preferred alternative for a corridor transportation plan are on the table.

The coalition will meet in Glenwood on Sept. 15 to discuss funding mechanisms to support the regional partnership and ultimately to support their preferred future for the corridor.

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