Cheaper homes may require cooperation
EDWARDS ” Saying the success of Eagle County depends on finding places for workers to live, officials unveiled a plan Thursday for a countywide housing group that could facilitate, advise and educate ” but not tax.
“People are being priced out of the ability to live here,” said Tony O’Rourke, executive director of the Beaver Creek Resort Company.
Local politicians and business people on a “blue ribbon” committee proposed to create a nonprofit “housing council” that would work with local governments and private developers to create worker housing.
The housing council would provide tools that would help create housing, officials said.
“It, itself, can’t produce a single house,” said Avon Mayor Ron Wolfe.
Those tools would include:
– Studying the need for worker housing in the county.
– Talking to developers about how they could incorporate affordable housing into their buildings.
– Finding land for affordable-housing projects.
– Giving information to potential buyers of affordable housing.
– Educating the public about the need for worker housing.
– Talking to towns about strategies like linkage and inclusionary zoning.
The recommendation stopped short of proposed a housing authority that would be able to levy taxes. But some suggested it created a framework to do just that.
“This council can, in fact, turn into a housing authority if that’s the right route to go,” said County Commissioner Sara Fisher, who called housing the “most pressing issue in our valley right now.”
“This is the perfect shell for some next funding step,” said County Commissioner Peter Runyon.
The group would have an annual cost of $400,000-$500,000 by 2009, according to the plan.
It would be funded by towns and the county ” and maybe private businesses. Each government would have to commit to funding and approve a joint resolution to form the council.
Some said they weren’t sure the recommendation goes far enough. Vail Town Councilman Mark Gordon said he was worried it didn’t have enough “teeth.”
“I’ve not been sold why I, as a town councilman, should give money to this group,” Gordon said.
Vail Councilman Greg Moffet said the council wouldn’t be a Trojan horse to slip in a tax increase. Voters would have to approve new taxes.
“Even if it is (a Trojan horse), the guys on the inside can’t control the door,” Moffet said.
The Urban Land Institute, a think tank, came here last year to study worker housing. They said the county needs to take action on the issue.
The Blue Ribbon Housing Committee was formed shortly thereafter to come up with regional solutions.
O’Rourke said it’s a good plan because it encourages a public-private partnership and a regional approach.
“Everyone has to accept their fair share of this problem,” he said.
Moffet said worker housing is like infrastructure for the community.
“It’s like water,” he said. “It’s like sewers. It’s like schools.”
The committee will likely seek funding from local governments this summer, said Don Cohen, who facilitated the blue-ribbon groups meeting.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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