Can you afford Avon anymore? | VailDaily.com
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Can you afford Avon anymore?

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado

AVON ” James Murphy lived in Avon once upon a time.

He used to work there too, at the City Market when he first moved to the valley. Desperate for a place to live, he took an apartment out of his price range and took a roommate he didn’t like.

“That didn’t last long, thank God,” Mason said. “It was hard to find the right price in the paper, at least when I needed a place. Of course you see the cheap ones when you’re stuck somewhere else.”

He eventually took a trailer home in Edwards, saved up some money, and now rents a much nicer place in Eagle, he said He’s a ski instructor in the winter, and does whatever he can in the summer.

So goes life in Avon. The houses and condos are nice and all ” it’s just rare to find locals who can afford them or beat out the Front Rangers buying second homes. Only 29 percent of Avon’s workforce lives in town.

“We have this dying and vanishing middle class,” mayor Ron Wolfe said.

Avon is looking to change that, especially after seeing an eye opening housing study released in December that says Avon isn’t affordable for either first-time home-buyers or seasonal employees.

So, Avon is developing an in-depth housing policy to help keep its workers and middle class families in town.

While plans are still in the draft stage, the town’s housing policy will likely involve requiring developers to provide a certain amount of affordable housing based on how many new employees they’ll generate.

Also, residential developments might have to provide affordable housing based on the size of the development. Basically, the larger the development, the more affordable housing units required.

Developers will be encouraged to provide on-site affordable housing, or provide even more housing off site. Developers could also pay large fees in lieu of building any affordable housing.

Anything designated as affordable housing would also be deed restricted to prevent the price from surging after a change in ownership.

Those are the big ideas the town is playing with ” it’s just the details that will take a long time to iron out.

The biggest question is if these housing polices will take the form of binding, stiff regulations or a more flexible set of guidelines. This distinction could make a big difference when developers come around.

The town is deep into its urban renewal plans for the east and west town centers, and the council and town staff expressed fear that strict housing regulations could scare away many of the developers they were trying to attract.

“We need to make sure we’re not burdening potential developers,” councilwoman Amy Phillips said.

But, solid ordinances would also ensure that the town gets the affordable housing it needs. The council had originally been in favor of regulations, but has more recently been leaning toward guidelines.

There is also a debate on what is the right size for a “livable” apartment or house. Is 500 square feet acceptable for a studio apartment? Is 900 square feet enough for a two bedroom home?

It all depends on what you’re used to, and what you’re willing to live in as a price for living in the valley, councilors said.

The study highlights several gaps in Avon’s housing market, and most of them relate directly to affordability.

For instance, there’s the dramatic surge in home prices over the past few years. In 2006, the median price for a home in Avon was $430,000″ an 81.4 percent increase from 2000. In comparison, the median family income increased only 17.5 percent in that period.

The study says a typical household can afford a home priced about three times higher than its income, but the median sale value of homes in 2006 was more than five times higher than the median family income.

This means first-time home owners are having a hard time finding a spot in Avon. Competition was especially high for homes in the $300,000 to $400,000 range, with Front Range residents scooping up those cheaper spots for holiday and weekend use.

Realtors noted the Avon housing shortage is seen at all price levels, from first-time home buyers to seasonal workers to families wanting bigger homes.

Avon has several affordable apartments, but many are full and have waiting lists. Property managers said in the report they have very few units turn over each year, and spots are especially hard to come by during winter months.

“Despite the number of year-round rentals in town, local need for units continues to be higher than the supply,” the report said.

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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