Daily Editorial: Housing’s test of mettle
Vail CO, Colorado
Eagle County faces its first significant test since the Urban Land Institute challenged our leaders to build more affordable housing.
The land-use authority’s final report came out a couple of weeks ago, after a team of various experts visited the county last December to size up our circumstances and offer some advice.
The big suggestion was to form a regional housing authority that crosses our patchwork of local jurisdictions. Community leaders are tiptoeing into those waters, which is a good thing.
This test, though, arises with smaller suggestions and the proposed West End development in Edwards, next door to the Gashouse restaurant and gravel pit, which is slowly being converted into an open-space preserve.
The developers and county staff have been working on ways to add more affordable units to the plan. “Affordable,” of course, is a euphemism for prices that in truth are just a hair less crazy than the open market. But hey, it’s a start. High land costs and great demand for real estate here makes truly affordable housing pretty much a fantasy.
Among the smaller tools to help take the edge off are allowing developments to be more densely packed than a government would normally allow; waiving certain governmental fees; and streamlining the gantlet to approval.
The Land Institute report warns that these means, while helpful, often raise the hackles of neighbors.
And sure enough, the nearby Homestead neighborhood’s leaders in particular are questioning a budding deal employing all these tools. The county would also buy and sell 40 percent of the total number of condos as “workforce units.”
So far, $258,000 for a 600-square-foot studio ” a closet in Beaver Creek ” and up from there seems a mite pricey for a “worker,” as county planning commissioners remarked. This one’s got more working out to do, clearly.
But this is the right track generally, and in the right place, if Eagle County is to get some balance back in the housing mix.
More density in population cores makes sense, and downtown Edwards is the population core in this the valley. Local government can stand to make things smoother and less expensive in return for more reasonable pricing for ordinary working folk.
But make no mistake, the West End project will test the county commissioners’ mettle.
We’ll see if they have the judgment and the backbone to match their stated commitment to meet Eagle County’s ever growing affordable-housing challenge.
” Don Rogers for the Editorial Board