Avon revisits community housing plan, proposes revisions
The plan will be updated to reflect the current landscape and progress made as well as to refine future solutions to the crisis at hand
As the housing situation worsens across Eagle County, the town of Avon is updating its Community Housing Plan to reflect the current landscape and progress made as well as to refine future solutions to the crisis at hand.
The town’s planning director, Matt Pielsticker, presented a draft of the proposed updates to the plan. The plan — which has already been vetted by town’s Planning and Zoning Commission and staff — will now go back to this commission for a public hearing before returning to Town Council for adoption.
The town’s current housing plan was last updated in August 2018. Since then, while the challenges of lack of housing inventory, and the high cost of living may look similar, the impact of these challenges has only intensified.
Since the document was last updated, the average price for dwelling units sold in Avon increased from $438,000 in 2017 to $575,000 in 2020. For condominiums, this median price increased from $358,500 to $575,000 and for single-family dwellings, duplexes and town homes there was an increase from $950,000 to $987,500.
The plan, as proposed, also added that a family of three with a median income makes about $90,000 a year, which with these average prices, “cannot support mortgage payments for a median price single-family dwelling in Avon.”
New data in the proposed plan also states that an estimated 5,900 additional dwelling units will be required by 2025 to meet the needs of local employees in the entire Eagle River Valley. Specifically in EagleVail, Avon and Edwards, the plan specifies the need for 1,500 dwelling units for a “growing population.”
The recently released results of Avon’s community survey emphasized the importance of community housing and affordable housing for local workforce to residents. In it, 23.6% of respondents felt that there were sufficient housing opportunities for locals in Avon, while 73.8% felt that it was important for the town to prioritize the investment in community housing.
In addition to data and trend updates, the proposed plan will include advancements made on housing policy and development as well as future goals and plans.
Since the plan was updated, the town of Avon has made some progress with regard to its previous community housing plan.
Much of its progress has been made with regard to adding deed-restricted units to new development projects or assisting with the purchase of deed restricted units via its Mi Casa Avon program.
Mi Casa was first started in the spring of 2020 program and is designed to make home ownership more accessible to Avon residents. The town will contribute between 8% and 12% — with a cap of $100,000 — of a purchase price for qualified homebuyers. To date, the town has closed on 12 transactions through the program.
Additionally, the town, via development agreements, has secured a number of deed-restricted units to be included in new developments. Many of these units are still proposed or under construction.
The proposed community housing plan sets a goal of increasing deed restricted home ownership opportunities for households making 140% or less of the area media median income. As previously stated, this median income is at $90,000 for a household of three people, per the plan.
At the meeting, Avon Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes said she didn’t feel that 140% was enough to address “the missing middle given what the cost of housing is.”
Other policy advancements have included adding community housing to the definition of light industrial zone district, adding employee mitigation requirements for new multi-family and commercial developments, and implementing a tax and fee waiver for community housing projects.
Future goals, plan
Going forward, the plan establishes some goals, tools and strategies to boost community housing.
One of the goals that has been identified by the town is for the creation of a dedicated funding source for community housing projects. And this November, the town is asking residents to vote on a short-term rental tax, the profits of which would create this dedicated fund if passed.
Should this tax not pass, the plan does highlight that the town intends to review current revenue streams and identify additional opportunities for funding future community housing efforts — including a possible construction use tax, regional collaboration and public-private partnerships.
The plan also highlights the importance of regional collaboration on these issues. “Given the lack of available land and escalating construction prices, bold measures must be taken with these partners to make a measurable impact on housing stock. Collaborative partnerships must include land acquisition and producing shovel ready plans in the short term,” reads the plan as currently proposed.
For the land the town does own, which includes a property on Swift Gulch, the plan stipulates that this is “the best opportunity to build new housing product on town owned land,” and identifies it as a priority. The plan highlights that preliminary site and design analysis for the property will take place in 2021.
Additional mechanisms for meeting the town’s community housing goals include continual growth and evolution of Mi Casa, investing in maintenance of current deed-restricted housing — which in 2022 will include a capital needs assessment of these assets — and exploration of strategies to help those that currently rent mobile homes transition to home ownership. The latter of which, Town Council expressed concerns about.
Council concerns, additions
In its work session at the Sept. 28 meeting, members of the Avon Town Council identified a few concerns in the plan and trends that were missing.
Council member Tamra Underwood expressed concerns about the section of the plan that highlights that a strategy to explore should be “mechanisms such as financial assistance for residents who currently rent, and transition to ownership of mobile home units to preserve properties that currently house locals.”
The plan notes that this could enable these residents to purchase and gain equity in the structure, which Underwood stated was problematic and didn’t really help mobile home residents.
“Dealing with the ground lease underneath the Aspens Mobile Home Park is really important because the landlord makes boatloads of money on the land, and then if someone owns the mobile home on top, it really doesn’t help them,” Underwood said. “Maybe we need some more creative solution about ‘what the heck can we do’ to assure that the community housing nature of that neighborhood stays that.”
Pielsticker agreed with this concern, adding that perhaps broadening the language and strategy around the mobile homes in the plan would leave room for additional future solutions.
In addition, Underwood highlighted that short-term rentals should be a priority in this plan.
“We really need to get ahead of the tidal wave or tsunami of short-term rentals, I think as a priority over the mobile home initiative,” Underwood said. “That needs to be our next major initiative is getting a handle on that.”
She added that this includes the management, overlay and inspections surrounding short-term rentals.
Many council members agreed with this characterization and need to have a plan for addressing short-term rentals — as it both benefits and potentially harms community housing.
Town manager Eric Heil noted that town staff was already in the process of compiling information and ideas for approaches on handling short-term rentals.
“We know that’s a topic and we’re already working on getting together the info,” Heil said. “We’ll put all those ideas together and we will put that in there as a strategy and at the same time, we’re getting ready to bring forward some of those ideas for council to consider taking action on.”
This was just the beginning of council’s review of the plan as it undergoes revision.
Council will be reviewing this plan again in the future following its public hearing held by the Planning and Zoning Commission. This public hearing is scheduled for the commission’s meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 5. The meeting begins at 5 and is held at Avon Town Hall (100 Mikaela Way).
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at email@example.com.