Editorial: County’s housing guidelines on track | VailDaily.com

Editorial: County’s housing guidelines on track

Alex Miller for the Editorial Board
Vail CO, Colorado

Sometimes it can take a community a little while to identify and confront what ails it.

For Eagle County, the issue of housing affordable by local workers and families has been on the table for many years, with only minimal attention and resources devoted to it over the years. Yes, projects like Miller Ranch and the Vail Commons were helpful, but only scratched the surface of the overall current and future needs.

Poll after poll and survey after survey reveals that Eagle County residents overwhelmingly support some kind of action on affordable housing. It’s fair to say now that, for the majority of us, this is a settled opinion no longer subject to debate.

The question now is what are we going to do about it, and the various towns and the county – as well as some local employers – are making strides in the right direction.

As the biggest player on the block, Eagle County has introduced a set of housing guidelines to help level the playing field, and creating a system whereby developers will be compelled to offset the impacts of their projects by making affordable housing part of the mix. Some are unhappy about it, of course, but many others acknowledge the need and are getting on board with the county’s program. Previously, most of the affordable housing projects were government-led and funded; we see this initiative as another important tool to get developers to help address the affordable housing needs they create.

We are fortunate that we have three county commissioners who have pursued this initiative with great energy and focus. Arn Menconi, Peter Runyon and Sara Fisher all were elected with promises that they would make affordable housing one of their top priorities, and they’re delivering. As many of us in the community have recognized, the commissioners see the time for just talk is over, and they’re moving ahead. Alex Potente, the county’s housing director, has done an extraordinary job of pulling together a lot of research and elements from other successful programs to create Eagle County’s guidelines. He’s sharp and tough, which is just what we need at this point in the county’s history to get this critical job done.

The new guidelines, while rigorous, still leave plenty of room for profit while addressing the fact that every new project that goes up creates its own impacts that must be offset. Developers have had a pretty limited responsibility in this regard in the past, and the time to build and build without thought to community repercussions is gone.

But we do encourage the county to continue working with the building community and others to tweak the regulations as needed in the coming years if any elements aren’t working. They can’t be set in stone ” nor can the thinking that we can fix our affordable housing problem by doing the same old thing.

Alex Miller for the Editorial Boar d

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