One of my biggest pet peeves is how much Colorado Springs obsesses over the fleeting attention that comes from rankings of top cities for so many different categories.
Some publication or other source, obviously intent on making headlines out of thin air, sends a release touting the latest list, knowing those who promote and market each city will pounce immediately. Even if the "honor" or designation isn't clearly justified.
Seriously, how does Men's Health know for sure Colorado Springs ranks in the Top 10 for Best Teeth, and No. 1 among Best Cities for Dogs? How can Fox News quantify that we're in the Top 10 Least Obese Metro Areas? Can Forbes really prove the Springs rates No. 10 for Best Places for Business and Careers? Or my favorite, Car and Driver saying we're No. 3 on its Top 10 Best Drivers' Cities (really?).
Granted, some rankings are valuable, such as Women's Health naming Colorado Springs No. 2 among Best Places to Live for Women. And being No. 5 on the U.S. News and World Report's highly credible Best Places to Live.
But we're so caught up in where we stand against other cities that sometimes we go overboard. A perfect example of that happened Sunday, when the Springs' own supposedly aware Gazette contributed the latest piece of needless hyperbole.
The story's headline suggested: "Springs quickly becoming cozy dwelling 'capital of America' as trend takes off." Quickly, the Denver Post picked it up with this bold headline topping its homepage: "Colorado Springs becomes tiny house capital of America," followed by a few paragraphs and a link to the Gazette story.
Just one problem. There's no proof in the actual story. The whole angle, and those blaring headlines, revolved around a single quote from, no kidding, the human resources manager for Tumbleweed Tiny House Co., a manufacturer located just east of Powers and Omaha boulevards that claims to be the only prolific producer of tiny houses in America.
There's no statistic, no credible source, to back up those claims. Never mind that tinyhouselistings.com shows 25 states have companies of varying sizes building and selling tiny houses, all with creative ideas and markets. Never mind that, like other cities, Colorado Springs does have a smattering of tiny houses — but no dedicated area to locate them.
Yes, there was a first-time national gathering here last year called the Tiny House Jamboree, and organizers insisted that it brought 40,000 people to Colorado Springs, with an encore event coming in early August. But that number seems even more exaggerated than the "tiny house capital of America" claim, because the Western Museum of Mining and Industry on North Gate Boulevard certainly could never handle a crowd nearly large enough to fill the Air Force Academy's Falcon Stadium.
Let's take a reality pill here. One manufacturer and one jamboree do not a "capital" make. Yes, tiny houses are an alternative to rising home prices. But it's crazy to believe that millions of Americans — especially families — will be happy living long-term in just 200 to 300 square feet. Cities such as Denver already have also discovered the difficulties with zoning, property laws and infrastructure in adapting tiny houses to usual standards for real-estate development.
The mere concept of tiny houses, especially when given such exaggerated hype, also serves as a distraction from the real problem facing Colorado Springs and other cities.
What does the Springs really need? Simple. We need tons more affordable housing, not just for ownership but especially convenient, reasonably priced rental apartments and condos, particularly in the downtown/central area. Yes, we have some complexes in the works. But we need dozens more, with hundreds (eventually thousands) more units, close to bus service and other amenities from restaurants and bars to biking trails and shopping. That will appeal to Millennials wanting to work at our tech-oriented companies and our hospitals, and that will convince our young adults — especially college graduates — to stay and build their careers here.
Affordable housing is our No. 1 need to create a thriving city of tomorrow and deserve more of those useful rankings. But that does not mean thousands of tiny houses would solve the problem.
And it also doesn't mean claiming to be America's capital of something like tiny houses when we're most certainly not.