A new study, based on a data collected by the American Chamber of Commerce Researchers Association and the city of Aspen, shows that the cost of living in Aspen is more than 300 percent higher than the national average. The study takes into account prices for groceries, housing, utilities, health care, transportation and miscellaneous goods and services.
Housing was by far the greatest expense in Aspen, with costs soaring 951 percent above the national average.That figure was decreased significantly for residents of Aspen's subsidized employee housing, although their housing cost was still 23 percent above the national average and their overall cost of living 32.75 percent higher than the rest of the country.
Aspen's cost of living was about 42 percent higher than Vail's, 156 percent higher than Breckenridge's and 206 percent greater than Steamboat Springs.
As the cost of living in Aspen continues to rise, a community where a permanent, year-round workforce can afford to live becomes increasinly difficult to maintain.
"The critical element to solving the [housing] problem is recognizing the cost," said Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland. "It really has to do with the outside demand for real estate, which you can't control. A larger number of baby boomers have more money and are more inclined to buy second homes, and all that demand pushes up real estate costs. So you don't fix the problem by saying, 'Let's build more housing, then the price will go down.' There are more baby boomers out there than we can feed."
Instead, Ireland points to Aspen's affordable housing program as a successful system that gives the local non-millionaires a way to buy a home.
"That has put a damper on price increase and made some opportunities for people to stay here who we would have otherwise lost," explained Ireland.