Vail set to again study a stable housing fund
Voters in 2019 showed little interest in new taxes
Town of Vail officials are taking another swing at determining — and possibly encouraging — support for a permanent housing fund.
The Vail Town Council last week approved a $15,000 contract with Magellan Strategies, a Louisville-based market research firm.
The idea behind the new contract is for a five-month community outreach plan that includes surveying voters and other work. If the town decides to move forward with a ballot issue, no town money can be spent on a campaign.
The council in 2019 conducted a voter survey about a possible permanent funding source for housing. In that survey, just more than half of respondents said the lack of housing in town is a “big problem.”
The same survey also found only 28% of voters supported the idea of passing either a property or sales tax to create that funding source.
Magellan’s representatives also discouraged the council from pursuing a source in the 2020 election due in large part to the economic uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Timing has to be right
“I think the Vail community understands the issue within the town,” Mayor Dave Chapin said. Chapin added he believes the community “wants the timing to be right” on any possible ballot issue, from a solid economy to comfort with creating funding sources.
Councilmember Jenn Bruno said a permanent funding source for housing could be even more important in the foreseeable future.
“In all likelihood, we’ll see more demand (for housing),” Bruno said. “A funding source will make sure that each council that votes on a budget will have the ability to have an impact.”
The town currently funds housing efforts primarily through its general fund and reserves. But both those accounts have been hit hard in the wake of the pandemic.
If town voters see a proposal this fall, that decision will be made by the current council. But Vail Local Housing Authority Chairman Steve Lindstrom said “a lot of education needs to be done about housing in general” for any measure to pass.
Lindstrom said even with a permanent funding source, Vail can’t go it alone in expanding the town’s workforce housing stock. That means the town will have to work with the private sector.
Those efforts so far have included the Vail InDeed program, in which the town buys deed restrictions from individual homeowners as well as firms including the Sonnenalp, which sold deed restrictions to the town for the Solar Vail apartments.
Seeking new information
Lindstrom said another survey will likely provide new information about what town voters think about workforce housing in town.
“It’s not always yes or no, it’s ‘are you aware about this,’” Lindstrom said.
Chapin and Bruno are term-limited from running again this fall. Both said they want the council to take steps to provide future councils with stable funding for housing efforts.
Housing “has always been a priority,” Bruno said. “I’d like to help create a legacy for councils in the future, so they have the tools to put people in homes.”
Chapin noted that the council in his time in office has been action-oriented on housing, including the Lions Ridge apartments and the Chamonix townhomes. He would like to see that continue.
“We were set up for success by previous councils,” Chapin said. A permanent funding source for housing could leave those groups with resources for more action.
“If you want to leave something behind, you leave it to the next leaders,” Chapin said.
A 2019 survey of Vail voters by Magellan Strategies found:
• 51% believe the lack of “available and affordable homes” in Vail is a big problem.
• 32% say housing is “somewhat” of a problem.
• 75% of Vail voters agree — with 46% in “strong” agreement — that local governments in mountain resort communities should make “reasonable” efforts to maintain and increase the supply of resident-occupied, deed-restricted homes.
• 28% of those surveyed said they would support a sales or property tax increase.