County ponders requiring affordable housing
Amendments to the county’s land-use regulations would require any project with five or more residential units to include 30 percent affordable housing units. The new regulations would also require new businesses to create housing for 30 percent of the employees they would generate.
Developers could either include the affordable housing in their projects, build the housing on another site, or simply pay the county cash.
The proposed regs would make including affordable housing in projects the most appealing alternative, however, and paying cash the least appealing.
“This helps create an environment where the employees in Eagle County can live in Eagle County, and that is in everyone’s best interests,” says Eagle County Senior Planner Rebecca Leonard. “Wages in Eagle County are not keeping pace with cost increases, and this will provide incentives for developers and employers to house their workers.”
The program’s goal, said the Eagle County Housing Division’s Laurie Bauer, is to create a cross-section of housing types across the county.
“We’d like to create a system that deals with the whole spectrum of housing needs,” said Bauer.
Under the program, the housing will be available to workers living in Eagle County as part of an effort to expand the local employees and cut down on the number of workers commuting into the county. Commuting has increased 600 percent in the last decade, according to studies by the Eagle County Housing Division.
“Development creates employees, which creates more demand for housing,” said Bauer. “This program requires developers and those launching businesses to help mitigate some of the impact they’re having on the local housing market.”
In their current form, the new regulations would limit a worker’s mortgage payment to not more than 30 percent of their pre-tax income. Prospective buyers would have had to work in Eagle County at least 30 hours a week for eight of the last 12 months.
The housing units would have to be the owner’s primary residence, and could not be rented. They would also be deed-restricted allowing a maximum increase in sales value of 3 percent a year.
The homes are aimed at moderate- and low-income buyers. Low-income households are those who earn less than 80 percent of Eagle County’s median income. Moderate income households can earn up to 120 percent of the county’s median income. (See accompanying list)
“In a place like Eagle County there’s a shortage of land and high demand for it,” said Leonard. “That pushes up the cost of housing.”
The towns of Eagle and Vail are proposing similar programs. Basalt has a program in place. Boulder, Routt, San Miguel, Garfield and Pitkin counties are already running similar programs.
“Employees create much of an area’s atmosphere,” said Eagle County Planning Commission Chairman Dan Seibel. “If you go back years ago in Vail you had Garton’s and Donovan’s Copper Bar, where local residents gathered. That’s missing today.”
A residential job generation study of 1,100 Eagle County households by Denver-based research firm RRC Associates drew a direct correlation between square footage of residential housing and the number of employees needed to take care of it. Basically, more square footage generates more employees.
Leonard said this program won’t solve the county’s affordable housing woes, but it is a step in the right direction.
“This will take everyone’s cooperation,” said Leonard. “This one just happens to be aimed at developers and businesses.”