Looking back on the Herald’s 2021 coverage, one topic undeniably dominated our news cycle — affordable housing. And while this comes as no surprise, we’ve got the quantitative and qualitative data to back it up.

Throughout 2021, the Herald reported on affordable housing 25 times. For a weekly newspaper with 52 issues per year, this equates to almost one article every other week on affordable housing.

Affordable housing was also discussed in the newspaper’s opinion section, including editorials, guest columns and letters to the editor, 24 times this year.

Not every news article or opinion item included in this tally focused solely on affordable housing. In fact, many such pieces mention affordable housing as a contributing cause or by-product of other local phenomena such as labor shortages or skyrocketing real estate prices.

However, many news stories, letters, columns and editorials published in 2021 editions of the Herald did focus exclusively on affordable housing.

Our staff reported on the progression of the Lake County Housing Coalition, the future affordability of properties at the Railyard and the path to implementing housing policy such as deed restrictions and inclusionary zoning in Lake County.

Over a dozen locals penned their support for the lodging tax codified in ballot measure 2A. Herald Editor Emerita Marcia Maritnek suggested turning the county commissioner offices at the courthouse into affordable apartment rentals. And guest column contributor Jonathan Thompson editorialized on the consequences of a Zoom boom-fueled real estate market, one that is now reaching once-affordable bedroom communities across the American West.

The Herald covered the city’s amended short-term rental regulations, the manufacturing system behind Fading West’s “attainable” modular homes and the formation of Cooperativa Nueva Union to buy the land on which a group of manufactured homes sit behind Family Dollar.

Qualitatively speaking, affordable housing has also occupied the minds of local workers, business owners and government employees throughout 2021.

Our staff has heard from business owners who decided to close their restaurants or shops multiple days a week due to staffing shortages; from new arrivals who, upon moving to Leadville, have been forced to stay in vehicles, with friends or at short-term rentals for months on end before finding a lease; and from long-time locals who have decided to leave Leadville permanently due to the rising cost of living.

When Governor Jared Polis visited Leadville earlier this month, affordable housing dominated his Q&A with locals. A week later, at a meet and greet event with city administrator candidates, affordable housing was once again central to the conversation.

There are also visceral reminders of the affordable housing need scattered around town: the “Now Hiring” signs along Harrison Avenue; the vans parked in vacant lots where lights flicker late into the night; the “Sold!” signs staked into the yards of single-family homes that were once attainable for families making Lake County’s median household income.

Mayor Greg Labbe once referred to affordable housing as “a hot button item” for Leadville at a City Council meeting in November of 2017. Four years later little has changed.

Rachel Woolworth

Herald Editor

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