Eagle County may spend up to $3 million on workforce housing projects | VailDaily.com

Eagle County may spend up to $3 million on workforce housing projects

Miller Ranch is the last big, county-sponsored workforce housing project. On Monday the county's housing and development authority rolled out several steps it could take to help jumpstart workforce housing projects.

EAGLE — The county's self-funded housing authority might spend $3 million to help jumpstart affordable housing efforts.

"The question becomes, 'Whose role is this? Who should be doing it?' The answer is everyone," said Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry.

An 11-step program

After a proposed housing tax went down in flames this past November, Eagle County's Housing and Development is proposing a series of steps, presented to the county commissioners by Jill Klosterman, Eagle County's housing director.

“The question becomes, ‘Whose role is this? Who should be doing it?’ The answer is everyone.”Kathy Chandler-Henry, Eagle County commissioner

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Among those possible steps is spending $2 million the housing authority has in its reserve fund, and another $1 million from the authority's capital improvements fund.

That's money the housing authority generated by managing rental properties. It is not tax money, Klosterman said.

"If we have a couple million dollars, we need to spend it. It doesn't do us any good sitting in bank accounts," Klosterman said.

Klosterman wants to spend that money on affordable housing projects, not staff or studies.

If they're not allowed to spend their fund balance or CIP funds, then they could raise Lake Creek rents by 5 percent as an alternative — that would generate $230,000 a year.

It's not high on their priority list.

"Our residents there are among the lowest income, and while 5 percent doesn't seem like much, $55 a month could be a stretch for some of these families," Klosterman said.

The county last raised Lake Creek rents in 2012 when they renovated almost every unit.

Supply side economics

The problem is the supply, or the lack thereof, Klosterman said.

Miller Ranch is 282 units. The waiting list is around 180 families, said Kim Bell Williams, with the county's housing authority. In 2016, 15 units were bought and sold, in 2015, 31 units turned.

During last year's campaign, voters constantly asked why doesn't the county build on land it already owns.

First, the county doesn't own much land. And the county doesn't have a steady funding source, Klosterman said.

For the low hanging fruit, they'll probably build 22 units in Eagle Ranch in the near future. Another project in Eagle could be in west Eagle, but that one is further down the road, Klosterman said.

They're proposing a committee, such as the county's transit committee, comprised of people from the housing industry from both government and the private sector.

They want to work with the Vail Valley Partnership to ensure the success of its Workforce Housing Coalition.

Klosterman said the county's proposed advisory committee is complimentary, not competitive with the Vail Valley Partnership housing coalition.

Data mining

The housing authority wants to spend up to $13,900 to hire Magellan Strategies to survey "no" voters. They say they want to "better understand" why 63 percent of Eagle County's voters rejected the 0.3 of 1 percent sales tax.

They'll use the data "to match our programs to the public's needs."

Magellan Strategies is a Boulder-based consulting firm that does voter opinion polling, survey research, political data modeling and voter data analysis and campaign consulting.

That information would be used to strengthen the county's housing program, not necessarily to create another housing tax question, Klosterman said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

11-step program

1. Follow up on 1A failure

2. Advisory Committee for ECHDA

3. Land Use Regulations

4. Communication/Education Program

5. Full Housing Needs Assessment

6. Housing Strategic Plan

7. Application for Subordinate Funding

8. Community Builders Affordable Housing Guidebook

9. Vail Valley Partnership – Workforce Housing Coalition

10. Coordinate Municipal Efforts

11. Employer-Assisted Housing Resources Guide