Daily Editorial: Timber Ridge lessons
Vail CO, Colorado
Timber Ridge could be the model for solving Eagle County’s affordable housing program.
The Urban Land Institute recently released its report on the county’s housing dilemma. In it, the organization applauds Vail’s plans for Timber Ridge. The town acquired the run-down apartment building ” which served as a seasonal home for many of Vail Mountain’s workers ” and is negotiating with an affordable housing developer to replace the apartments with affordable rentals and perhaps, affordable condos. Vail Resorts may help the developer finance the project by purchasing some of the units to meet their obligations under the town’s new housing guidelines ” guidelines that require that 30 percent of a commercial development’s square footage be dedicated to affordable housing.
To make this project work, Vail will likely have to up the density allowed on that site and let the developer build some luxury condos to help pay for the project. But increasing density and adopting housing guidelines that require developers be responsible for some employee housing are just a few of the tools the Urban Land Institute is urging we use to tackle the issue at hand. Getting developers and local businesses involved in solving the problem is essential, too.
The institute is also urging us to act now. Eagle County needs 3,500 more affordable homes today, and needs 400 more per year to keep up with the county’s projected workforce by 2025. Achieving that goal may be the biggest challenge Eagle County has ever faced; but losing scores of workers to jobs elsewhere that offer more affordable homes and desirable commutes would likely be the alternative.
The good news is Eagle County can still make a difference. Towns and the county will have to work together, review their land-use guidelines for affordable housing with a keen sense of the impact their community’s development will have on the communities down the road. Businesses need to own up to the problems they cause by contributing financially to affordable housing projects, particularly those that could serve as homes for their workers.
Developers also need to pay for the impact their luxury home developments ” the kind that attract the wealthy and help fuel our ever-increasing cost of living.
And lastly, local residents need to make some sacrifices to keep their community’s economy ” and quality of life ” improving. That could mean supporting when their town leaders decide to increase the density of certain neighborhoods around town, or giving up undeveloped land in the middle of town when it would make a prime spot for a new middle-class community.
But if Vail ” where the affordable housing situation is at its most dire ” can do it, so can we all.
” Tamara Miller for the Editorial Board