Changes to Vail’s housing lottery will open the process to more applicants | VailDaily.com

Changes to Vail’s housing lottery will open the process to more applicants

Drawing lottery numbers using a rotavator. This popular social game is commonly known as Bingo in Australia.

VAIL — Every year, a small handful of units come up for sale from the town's deed-restricted housing pool. Just about every year, the potential pool of buyers shrinks. That's going to change.

Vail's deed-restricted housing program is more than 20 years old. During that time, possible buyers have been largely limited to those who have lived and worked in town the longest. Over the years, the town's current requirements have steadily shrunk the possible pool of buyers.

With an eye toward opening the few annual re-sales to a broader possible market — including young families — the Vail Local Housing Authority has recommended that the Vail Town Council change the existing policies. In fact, the town's 2018 lottery has been delayed into July to accommodate the rule changes.

A couple of those changes are significant.

Under the proposed new rules — which the housing authority board is still refining — the tiered lottery would depend less on length of residence and employment in town. Instead, applicants could get a total of five tickets thrown into the basket at lottery time.

More tickets, more chances

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Everyone who meets the minimum participation criteria — primarily full-time employment in the county and the ability to qualify for a mortgage — gets one ticket.

A full-time Vail resident would get another ticket, with one more ticket added for full-time employment in Vail.

Length of residence — at a point still to be determined, but somewhere between seven and 10 years — would add another ticket to the basket. A final ticket would be added for length of employment in Vail — again, somewhere between seven and 10 years.

Five-ticket participants would have the best opportunity to win the chance to buy a home, but someone in town for just a few months could possibly have a three-ticket entry.

That change was relatively easy. Far more complicated is a bigger change: The ability for applicants to own property in the county.

Under the current rules, applicants can't own residential property at all.

That means applicants can only be renters. It also means that anyone who wants to, say, move from a one-bedroom to a three-bedroom unit due to a growing family would have to sell first and then take a chance on a lottery that favors long-term residents and employees.

Most people wouldn't do that.

No cabins in Bond

Under the proposed new rules, people could own residential property and still enter the lottery. What happens if a property owner's name came up as a winner has sparked a good bit of debate at the last couple of council meetings, mostly recently at the Tuesday, May 15, session.

There was a good bit of debate about trying to keep people from gaming the system. There was also a lengthy discussion about the prospect of losing a home to the free market if someone sells a home and buys a deed-restricted home in Vail.

According to Vail Housing Director George Ruther, roughly 90 percent of all home sales in town go into the second-home market.

Ultimately, council members agreed to a policy that would require a property owner to deed-restrict his or her current home. That person could either keep the unit as a rental or sell it.

"We don't care who owns (a home), but who lives in it," housing authority chairman Steve Lindstrom told council members.

But selling with a deed restriction would mean the owner would almost surely take less than a free-market sale.

That property wouldn't be eligible for the town's current InDeed program, in which the town buys deed restrictions from willing sellers. That program, which the council has already had to appropriate more money to run, keeps homes in the "affordable" end of the local home pool.

Under the current proposal, the town would have to accept the deed restriction on any residential property. A cabin in Bond probably wouldn't qualify.

What the new policy does is provide more options for both lottery participants and the town.

"The more tools we have, the better it's going to be," Lindstrom said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 and smiller@vaildaily.com.

By the numbers

30: Proposed average hours per week an applicant must work at an Eagle County business.

17: Average number of Vail housing lottery participants per year from 2012 to 2017.

3: Average number of re-sales per year in the same period.

5: Maximum tickets available in a proposed lottery system.

Source: Town of Vail