Cheaper housing coming soon, town says
VAIL – Justina Carter said she likes that the town of Vail is trying to create more employee housing. Too bad she won’t be around to see the benefits of it, she added.Carter, an Australian who’s in Vail for her eighth winter, will be moving to New Hampshire after this season.Housing was a big factor in her decision to leave Vail, she said.”Rent these days is out of control,” said Carter, who works at Billabong in Vail Village.Sensing a lack of housing for workers in Vail, the Town Council on Tuesday passed new rules that will require developers to provide more affordable housing in town.The town’s goal is to keep 30 percent of workers living in Vail. Right now, about 30 percent of workers do live in Vail, but the supply of cheap housing is dwindling as more and more second-home owners and retirees buy homes.Even as the ski season winds up, lots of help-wanted signs still hang in shop windows in Vail.
Trying to find housing in and around Vail has gotten increasingly difficult since her first winter here, in 1995, Carter said.She’s now living in East Vail, but will not be able to stay there after this season. She’s had trouble finding another place that would accommodate her, a roommate and her dog.Carter is headed to New Hampshire, where, she said, she can rent a whole house for the price of what she’s paying here for a two-bedroom apartment here.So how long would Carter have to stay to really see the benefits of Vail’s new housing laws?”I think it will make an impact we see fairly soon,” said Kim Newbury, a Vail councilwoman.The laws should begin to bring additional housing over the next year or two, she said.Ever Vail, Vail Resorts’ planned $1 billion redevelopment of Lionshead, would be subject to the new housing rules.Newbury said she wants to prevent people, including families, from moving downvalley and elsewhere. Affordable housing programs have kept her and her family in Vail, she said.”I am the product of that system,” she said. “It’s given me the opportunity to raise my children in Vail. And I want other people to have that.”
This is just the beginning of the town’s renewed efforts to create more affordable housing, said Mark Gordon, another councilman.”No rest for the weary,” said Gordon, who called Tuesday’s vote “the most important vote since the founding of Vail.”Gordon, a steadfast proponent of more employee housing in town, said he wants the town to beef up its “buy-down program.” That program buys homes, places “deed restrictions” on them to that ensure they are bought by local workers, and then sell them at lower prices.The redevelopment of the Timber Ridge affordable housing project could provides lots of new employee housing.The group that wants to redevelop the Lionshead parking structure has a concurrent proposal to rebuild Timber Ridge that would double the 600 beds there now and also add for-sale homes.The Chamonix property above Wendy’s in West Vail is another piece of town-owned land where employee housing is planned. The town is still trying to buy the adjacent Wendy’s property, too.
Grant Wheeler, who works at Troy’s Ski Shop, said he was lucky because he was able to team up with three friends to find a decent place to live. But other friends haven’t been so lucky, he said.”A lot of my friends are sleeping on a couch in a full house, that kind of thing,” he said. “Rent is expensive.”He said he approved of Vail’s efforts to get more employee housing in town.But Wheeler is leaving Vail, too, after this season to go back to school. His decision was unrelated to housing, he said.But Scott Nesbitt, who works at Vail Resortwear, a T-shirt shop in Bridge Street, said the housing problem isn’t that bad.Workers are able to find places to stay, and the store provides housing for seasonal workers who need it, he said.A lot of workers just want to drink and ski, and as long as they are working and have a place to lay their head at night, even if it’s less-than-ideal accommodations, they are happy, he said.The housing situation is OK overall, he said.”I think it’s fine,” he said, though he added that Timber Ridge is getting run-down.But Nesbitt is leaving after this season to go to New Zealand. His decision, also, is unrelated to housing, he said.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org