Avon’s housing guidelines see first update since 1991
Residents of Wildwood Townhomes share thoughts on necessary improvements to deed restrictions in Avon Town Council meeting
The Avon Town Council adopted new community housing policies to replace the town’s housing guidelines of 1990-91 at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 12. The new policies apply to all future community housing in Avon, including price-capped community housing, rent-capped community housing, owner-occupied community housing and resident-occupied community housing, and will also support modifications made to existing outdated deed restrictions.
The goal of the new housing policies is to be more equitable and transparent. The old housing guidelines and resulting deed restrictions did not account for the growth in real estate value that Avon and Eagle County have experienced in the decades since, and have prevented unit owners from making necessary improvements to their homes due to financial limitations specified in the deeds.
Factors such as the need to better address the question of transferring community housing to friends or family members, and the complete absence of the Mi Casa Avon program and its policies in the 1990-91 guidelines, also contributed to the need to create new housing policies.
Chapter four of the new community housing policies, the section about the requirements for buyers, owners, and renters of community housing units, was reserved by council, and will receive specific attention in a future council work session. Choosing the proper process for selecting the recipients of community housing units was discussed by council during its July 25 meeting and remains a priority for the Avon Town Council and town staff. The work session should be completed within the next couple of months, with the goal of fully completing the policies by Thanksgiving, according to Town Manager Eric Heil.
Jena Skinner, the senior planner for the town of Avon, explained that the new housing policies are meant to serve as a starting point for more specific future deeds. “We know and you’ve heard very clearly that — because there are people here who want to say their piece — that there are some problems with the older deeds. Some of them are just really old and need to be replaced, so these templates will start as a starting point. Moving forward, we think that each complex for deed-restricted, price-capped units will probably have a very unique deed that caters to their situation, so we’re prepared for that,” Skinner said.
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Wildwood Townhomes and other long-standing deed restrictions
As Skinner referenced, many residents of the Wildwood Townhomes attended the Sept. 12 Avon Town Council meeting to share their firsthand experiences with the challenges of the old housing guidelines.
Many of Avon’s existing deed restrictions failed to reckon with the exponential growth in real estate value in Avon and the greater Eagle River Valley. Restrictions such as a 3% cap on the yearly increase in the value of the deed-restricted homes, and limiting the capital improvements unit owners can make to 10% of the original purchase price of the home resulted in homeowners struggling to reap real profit from the sale of their homes, and without the ability to make necessary modifications to improve living conditions within their homes.
For many longstanding owners of deed-restricted units, correcting the difficulties that have been caused by the old housing guidelines in the new housing policies is of paramount importance.
“Our homes have more value if they burn down, than if we were to resell,” said Maria DeSimone, a resident of Wildwood Townhomes, at the Sept. 12 Avon Town Council meeting. According to DeSimone, Wildwood Townhomes homeowners pay market rates for insurance at approximately $600 per square foot, while the resale value is around $213 per square foot, due to the deed restriction placed on the units.
While the exact numbers may differ from those presented, council, town staff, and Wildwood Townhomes residents present at the Sept. 12 meeting agreed that the gap between the value of the Wildwood units versus the market value for a home of a similar size was greater than it should be.
The Wildwood Townhomes were intended to be starter homes, but home prices rapidly skyrocketed in Eagle County throughout the 1990s and early 2000s when many current homeowners bought their homes, making it difficult for them to afford purchasing a new home so quickly. The result was residents who have not left their Wildwood homes since they were purchased, and who can only make limited improvements to their longtime homes due to limitations in the deed restrictions.
“Some homes are 20 to 30 years behind on much-needed improvements without allowances to make those improvements possible,” DeSimone said.
“(The value of the home) needs to reflect a percentage of the open market (price), so we’re not buying into poverty,” said Wildwood Townhomes resident Kathleen Garcia. Garcia said that she works as a ski patroller and a gardener, and living in Avon has enabled her to pursue these professions, but she also struggles with updating her home to livable conditions. “I would like to be able to go to my lender and, if I need a new furnace, refinance and be able to pay for it,” she said.
A draft proposal of the revised deed restrictions for existing community housing, such as the Wildwood Townhomes, is scheduled to come before the Avon Town Council during its Oct. 24 meeting. In the meantime, the council and town manager encourage community members to submit feedback and suggestions to the housing coordinator Jena Skinner through her email, firstname.lastname@example.org.