Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Editorial Board, June 2009 to September 2009
- Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
- Brent Boyer, editor
- Mike Lawrence, city editor
- Tom Ross, reporter
- Grant Fenton, community representative
- Paul Strong, community representative
Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.
The decline of Routt County's housing market and the ripple effects it has had throughout the community cannot be overstated. Quite simply, it's a story too important not to tell.
Thus the Pilot & Today's five-part series, House of Cards. While the series concluded Friday, the impacts of the housing and economic crises will continue to play out in the daily lives of many - if not most - Routt County residents.
The aim of the series was to peel back the layers of Routt County's economic troubles and to tell the stories of the recession through the lives of residents. Folks such as the Griepentrogs, the Woodfords and the Murphys put real faces to the troubles and opportunities created by the downturn. But for every personal story highlighted in the pages of House of Cards, there are dozens of similar stories that are unfolding daily in our neighborhoods and workplaces. And that's the message. The decline of Routt County's real estate economy has had a traumatic impact not only on the construction and real estate industries, but on nearly every industry and facet of life here.
There are some in the community who prefer our problems get glossed over and that the happy faces we put on for our visitors mask the very real problems many families and businesses are experiencing. We disagree. Discussing what so many of us are experiencing is key to understanding how we got here and how we'll emerge on the other side.
The past five years have taught us that rapid growth in the real estate market and the inevitable market correction result in a wave that spreads throughout the entire community. That rapid growth was driven by a wealthy and retiring baby boomer generation and a lending climate that allowed just about anyone to secure loans to purchase property. When the national housing market fell apart, those loans became dangerously risky for borrowers who suddenly found themselves out of work or making payments on properties that no longer were worth as much as the loan that purchased them.
It wasn't just the wealthy who took advantage of the easy credit; many of Steamboat's regular working-class folks bought into the market. Some of them are now in over their heads, struggling under the weight of lost employment or decreased wages and reset loan terms. Those who need out so they can find work elsewhere can't sell their properties in this distressed market. Historically high inventory coupled with record low transactions in the first quarter of 2009 paint a clear picture of the state of our market. The number of foreclosures this year is on pace to triple the county's previous high. Routt County's unemployment rate has more than doubled in the past year. Steamboat Springs and Routt County governments have slashed their budgets, instituted employee furloughs and, in some cases, laid off workers. Job loss in the private sector has been much higher.
But for all the bad this community has experienced during the past year, we must recognize that it won't last forever. The real estate market and economy eventually will return, though the former may never be what it was in the middle part of this decade. Tourists will come to experience our beautiful community, and sales tax revenues will increase. The local job market will grow, providing opportunities for the next generation of Routt County residents. But those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.