Vail has options for workforce housing
Housing authority chair says town needs to make hard decisions on what it wants to see
There’s potential around Vail for adding workforce housing to the town’s inventory, but that’s going to take some time.
The Vail Town Council heard an update from Vail Local Housing Authority board chair Steve Lindstrom on Feb. 1. Lindstrom provided some positive news while acknowledging the town is lagging on the goals set in its 2027 Strategic Housing Plan.
Lindstrom noted that housing is a major part of the town’s certification as a sustainable destination, and for good reason.
“There’s hardly a business that isn’t looking for help,” Lindstrom said. Housing is part of that problem.
Lindstrom said that as many as 90% of all home sales in town go to second-home buyers.
“That’s not a long-term sign for the health of our community,” he said.
What’s out there?
Still, he said, the town has several opportunities on tap.
- The town and the Colorado Department of Transportation are talking about the sale of a parcel in East Vail that could create an opportunity to build deed restricted, for-sale housing similar to the Chamonix townhomes in West Vail.
- The town is talking about putting more rental housing at its Public Works Department campus. That would likely be primarily for town employees.
- The Timber Ridge apartments will be rebuilt in the next few years. That project envisions adding more than 100 units to the 98 currently at the site. No decisions have been made whether there will be a mix of rental and for-sale units there. A town housing needs study, due in April, will shed more light on what that mix should be.
- A new master plan for West Vail includes ideas for current property owners to add more units to existing properties, but those properties will need to be rezoned.
“There’s a lot of nitty-gritty stuff to work through,” Lindstrom said, urging the town to adopt a policy that no housing be lost through redevelopment.
- That master plan also includes the West Vail commercial area. Lindstrom said there’s a lot of opportunity for housing there, but that whatever might be proposed in the future is largely out of the town’s hands.
- The Vail Planning and Environmental Commission in 2021 denied a proposal for housing at the site of the tennis courts near Cascade Village. Lindstrom said the property and the need are still there, adding that the site could be a permanent home for a child care facility.
What about West Middle Creek?
The town in 2018 did a preliminary study for a parcel to the west of the Middle Creek Village apartments. That will require council action to rezone the area, and the property is quite steep. Still, an initial study showed the property could hold roughly 175 units.
There are also plans and proposals to the west of Vail.
“It’s always been pretty easy to say (go west),” Lindstrom said. The reality is different.”
While Vail is currently seeing record sales tax collections, and has millions in reserves, funding those projects won’t be easy.
Town voters in 2021 passed a 0.5% sales tax increase that will raise an estimated $4 million per year for housing. Council member Travis Coggin said all of that money will go directly to housing initiatives, with none used for administration or other overhead.
“We have an opportunity to double down on housing,” Lindstrom said, adding that housing could eventually be to Vail’s competitive advantage among resorts.
“We’ve done big things in the past,” Lindstrom said. “We just need to figure out if we want to do (this)… We have a lot of the tools, the processes and the knowledge to do things.”
The rapid run-up in home prices in Vail and the surrounding valley has hit the Vail InDEED program. The program, which has been studied and copied in many communities, provides cash assistance to home buyers in return for new owners deed-restricting their home.
Vail Housing Director George Ruther said recently that interest in the program has dropped in the wake of rising prices and cash offers. Ruther said the Vail Local Housing Authority until several months ago would see one or two applications per meeting.
Ruther said there haven’t been any applications for the past few authority meetings.
Ruther noted the InDeed process takes some time.
“If (a seller) can close in 10 days to a cash buyer, why not?” Ruther said.