Buckley: Eagle Co. housing rules on wrong track | VailDaily.com

Buckley: Eagle Co. housing rules on wrong track

Debbie Buckley
Vail CO, Colorado

In response to Eagle County’s lack of workforce housing, new housing guidelines have been introduced that will require developers to set aside a percentage of the units of each new development for affordable housing. One component of the guidelines, called inclusionary zoning, will effectively drive up the housing prices in Eagle County.

Inclusionary zoning can actually drive prices higher by discouraging builders from building new homes and forcing them to charge higher prices for the homes they do build. In our real-estate-driven economy, a decrease in the building of new homes will result in a loss of jobs for some of our locals.

Inclusionary zoning has been used in the San Francisco area for 30 years with limited success. In a recent publication, “Housing Supply and Affordability: Do Affordable Mandates Work?”, two California economists estimate that inclusionary zoning in the San Francisco Bay Area has significantly increased the average cost of new homes. During this same period of 30 years, only 7,000 new homes have been built that are considered “affordable”.

Here is an example of how inclusionary zoning works. The inclusionary zoning requirement mandates that developers sell a percent of new homes for less than market value. To make up the difference, the developer will increase the price of the remaining percent of free-market houses in that development. The higher price affects the price and the assessed value of all nearby homes. The increase in assessed value will result in an increase in property taxes for the existing homeowners. The property-tax increase will in turn be passed on to the renters.

The cost of these guidelines will not be passed on to the developer, but they will be passed on to all of us through increased property taxes and rents as our assessments continue to climb. Anything that drives up the cost of new homes also leads to an increase in the price of nearby existing homes to both the buyers and renters.

The increased density that is encouraged in these guidelines will have other negative side effects. The increased density will cause more crowding in our schools, increased traffic congestion, and a further burden to our public safety officers and overcrowded justice center. Some areas of our community, in particular neighborhoods in Edwards, are already outgrowing their infrastructure and it is unfair to force increased density upon them. Some residents of Edwards have expressed their concern that the West End project is larger and denser than it should be for the Edwards area.

A true affordable housing program for Eagle County will require dramatic action. It will require less government intrusion and more creative thinking. Home builders, businesses and local officials should work together to overcome cost-adding regulations that will drive up the cost of living for all of us. Eagle County should incentivize private developers to build workforce housing by offering expedited permits, reduced fees, zoning variances or other incentives. Every housing project must take into consideration other infrastructure needs. Eagle County must support workforce housing with public transit that will reduce traffic congestion. Eagle County should be a partner with the community to encourage common sense solutions that include infrastructure development that compliments the increased density.

Debbie Buckley is an Avon resident and an Eagle County commissioner candidate. E-mail comments about this column to letters@vaildaily.

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