Case for a housing tax
Vail, Colorado CO
There’s an almost-religious fervor in Eagle and Vail these days about housing. The leading evangelists in this new crusade are describing the valley’s lack of “affordable,” “attainable,” or “worker” housing in apocalyptic terms. “Crisis” is the most-used.
Like many crusades, the sinners in the housing game have been identified, and those sinners need to be scourged.
One answer to the “crisis” puts the onus of affordable housing squarely on builders and developers. That’s fair. Developers need to know that building more homes or shops that will swell the help-wanted section of the classifieds comes at the price of more worker housing.
But local leaders need to resist trying to correct the failures of decades past by asking more of developers today.
It’s fair to ask for improved trails, street improvements and, in case of the Vines at Vail project in Wolcott, it was fair to require that 40 percent of all the units there be dedicated to “affordable” housing.
Requiring housing now, and quite a bit of it, is fair. Requiring developers to pay for decades of past inaction is not.
The Eagle County Commissioners over the past couple of years have been known to ask developers to come back with more and still more “public benefits.” Where fairness stops and “exactions” start is mostly a matter of who’s taking out the loans, but there is a difference. And the mistakes of the past do need to be fixed.
The fact of the matter is that everyone who’s lived here more than a few years is part of the problem. And everyone needs to be part of the solution. Besides creating new housing on a project-by-project level, if this community is serious about creating more housing in the volumes the crisis-mongers say is needed, we all need to pay for it.
If voters in this county are willing to tax themselves for transportation (through a sales tax) and open space (though a property tax), the right plan might convince a majority of residents to tax themselves to pay for a well-conceived, responsible plan to create more rental and for-sale housing.
It’s worth asking the question. And it’s the most fair way to get a lot done.