Can Vail do more to create more workforce housing?
Housing authority head: Town nearing a tipping point
The town of Vail has spent millions on housing over the past several years. Steve Lindstrom believes more needs to be done.
Lindstrom, the chairperson of the Vail Local Housing Authority, spoke Tuesday with the Vail Town Council about the current state of housing in town. Lindstrom said the situation is dire.
“We’re welcoming many more residents to our town, and we welcome them all,” Lindstrom said. “But if you’re trying to break in, it’s a tough go.”
Lindstrom told council members that the current housing shortage hasn’t been good for the town’s overall economy.
“There’s a point at which (lack of housing) damages our brand, our economy and our environment,” Lindstrom said, urging more town action on creating more workforce housing.
Lindstrom noted that the town and the Colorado Department of Transportation are talking about the prospect of the town buying a state-owned parcel in East Vail, then using it for housing. That needs to happen as soon as possible, he added.
“We’ve got to go full gas on this — the time is now,” Lindstrom said.
Can Cascade be revived?
Lindstrom also encouraged the council to try to revive a plan to build housing and a child care center on a parcel just west of Cascade Village.
That project, proposed earlier this year by Treeline Multifamily Partners of Denver, went through one meeting with the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission before it was shelved.
During the discussion, and with the encouragement of a majority of council members, Town Manager Scott Robson said he and the town staff will reach out to the property owner to try to revive the proposal.
But Lindstrom’s request to restart work on a possible housing development on a town-owned parcel west of Middle Creek didn’t receive support from a majority of council members.
The Cascade plan was one of several “missed opportunities,” Lindstrom said.
The site of the old Roost Lodge in West Vail was another, he said. The first proposal, submitted in 2016, called for more than 100 workforce housing units. That plan was approved, but the developer then vanished. A subsequent proposal, approved in 2020, brought far fewer workforce housing units to the site.
“That’s a long, sad story of a missed opportunity,” Lindstrom said, adding that the town should have taken “more initiative when we needed to.”
Lindstrom added that an expansion of the Highline hotel in West Vail, also approved in 2020, could have brought more housing to the town.
Lindstrom also urged the council to work quickly on a master plan for West Vail, both the residential and commercial areas, and to continue to explore opportunities west of Dowd Junction.
While out-of-town projects get a lot of attention in Vail, Lindstrom said “we can’t count on” those projects.
Time is tight
“The big piece we can do, and do better, is working with development opportunities that come our way,” Lindstrom said.
Council member Kim Langmaid noted she believes the town has been in a “reactive” mode since she was elected in 2015. Langmaid said town officials need to work to update the current housing plan, so the town can be in a “more proactive, more holistic” situation.
Council member Jenn Bruno said that update is important, but added, “We can’t wait for a plan. That can take 12 months, and we don’t have 12 months to wait.”
Langmaid agreed that the town needs to do what it can right now, but also work on longer-term plans.
“We can do both,” Lindstrom said. “We don’t want to stop acting while we’re compiling data.”
Council member Brian Stockmar noted that housing availability is at crisis or near-crisis levels, across the western United States.
“It’s incredibly complex,” Stockmar said.
Council member Travis Coggin noted that the nation’s housing supply machinery is “broken,” and said adding some supply wherever possible can at least help somewhat.
“We need to keep pushing where we can,” Coggin said.
Vail Housing Director George Ruther said he continues to field calls about the Vail InDeed program, which has been a model for several other communities.
“The biggest shift you made was when you acted boldly,” Ruther said. “Let’s continue to lead.”
$11.1 million: Town of Vail spending on deed restricting units.
$66,518: Average cost of a Vail InDeed deed restriction.
244: New deed restrictions in Vail since the Vail InDeed program began in 2017.
$2.1 million: Cost of an East Vail duplex the town is set to acquire, then deed-restrict.