County facing rental crunch |

County facing rental crunch

Alex Miller
Bret Hartman/Vail DailyMiddle Creek, an affordable housing project with 142 rental units, was recently completed by the town of Vail. Lower-priced units like these are likely to become increasingly scarce in the coming years.

EAGLE COUNTY – Now may not be the time to tell your landlord to take that crummy two-bedroom dump and shove it. Huge construction projects and developments in Eagle County are bringing an influx of workers, causing the number of available rental units to dwindle.”If you’ve got a good rental situation, I’d look to keep it,” said Nina Timm, housing coordinator for the Town of Vail. “The vacancy rate (for rental units) has dropped dramatically, and I believe it will continue to drop.”

Even after the construction workers involved in the town’s redevelopment leave, Timm said, the “renaissance” of Vail is anticipated to create an additional 1,000 to 1,500 jobs – all filled by people who’ll likely need housing on the lower end of the affordability scale.”I don’t think it’ll keep up,” Timm said of the gap between income and housing costs. “If you look at the price of the housing being developed and the pay scale of the jobs, something’s got to give.”While rentals may be more scarce this mud season than usual, chances are it will be even worse next year. That’s because the Vail redevelopment will still be in full swing while other projects – from the ongoing Village at Avon to proposed developments from Minturn to Edwards – will have added more jobs, more workers and more demand on local housing inventory. “Nina has a very good point,” said KT Gazunis, director of the Eagle County Housing Department. “Because they’re construction jobs, they’re probably not looking at home ownership so much as rentals.”Affordable optionsFor those who would like to buy, the outlook isn’t much brighter. In Vail, there’s not much on the table for new affordable housing projects. Timm said the town is starting to look at redevelopment of the Timber Ridge complex to create more entry-level units for purchase, but that’s at least a year or two in the future.

Most Eagle County residents know to look downvalley for anything approaching “affordable,” but even those are starting to disappear. Miller Ranch in Edwards – an affordable mix of 282 townhomes, duplexes, lofts and single-family homes – is nearly sold out, nearly a year ahead of schedule. Lake Creek Village, a 270-unit affordable apartment development also in Edwards, has one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments available for rent between $860 and $1,365 per month, but according to the manager, the vacancy rate is extremely low. The county does have some assistance available for low-income renters, as well as options for seniors and disabled people. Gazunis said the next thing on the county commissioners’ plate vis-à-vis affordable housing is probably assisted living and other projects aimed at low-income, disabled or older residents. “There are no general population affordable housing projects on the horizon,” Gazunis said, adding that the open market offers only a shifting, pricey landscape.”It keeps changing, the areas that affordable,” she said. “You have to go to the other side of Glenwood now. Even some houses in New Castle are being listed for over $500,000.”Even if there were government-sponsored projects on tap, Gazunis said, it’s never enough. “It’s like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike,” she said. “The affordable housing issue doesn’t ever go away.”

Gazunis referred to the Burlingame project in Aspen, an affordable housing initiative that’s finally been approved after more than seven years.”The pro is that it did pass, but the con is that not a lot of people can hang around waiting for housing for seven years,” she said. “You either have to be really resourceful or you’re heading down the road … and isn’t that a shame?”Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or Daily, Vail, Colorado

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