Five families sought rights to one unit in Vail housing lottery
By the numbers
79: For-sale units in Vail’s affordable housing program.
$300,000: Sale price of a three-bedroom unit at the North Trail Townhomes.
5: Families entered the lottery drawing for the unit.
3 percent: Maximum appreciation of “affordable” for-sale units in Vail.
VAIL — It looks as if the right home at the right time found Matt, Anna and Charlie McElduff. But it took years for that home to appear.
The McElduffs were one of five families to apply to buy one of the two three-bedroom units at the North Trail Townhomes in West Vail. That six-unit complex was built with town subsidies, and the homes there are part of the town’s affordable housing program. All the families’ applications were evaluated in a fairly complex system that weighs length of residence in Vail, whether applicants work in Vail and other factors.
In the end, the McElduffs — who now live in a two-bedroom unit in North Trail won the right to buy the bigger unit. The other families applying are in something of a line if the McElduffs turn down the opportunity. And this is an opportunity. The sale price for the unit is about $300,000. That’s a bargain in Vail, but part of that bargain is accepting a maximum annual appreciation rate of 3 percent. That’s how the town-subsidized homes remain affordable.
Still, even that modest appreciation is helpful.
“According to the banker, without the equity in our two-bedroom we wouldn’t be able to buy this unit. So the system works.”
But not everyone is able to, or, ultimately, wants to, purchase a unit after earning the right to do so.
Town housing coordinator Nina Timm, the buyer who earned the rights to purchase the North Trail unit in the summer of 2014, eventually decided not to buy.
That’s one reason Timm said the town’s housing lottery in a way flips the normal buying process on its head.
“Normally, you go out and shop for a home — with this system, the home finds you, and that home isn’t always the right one,” Timm said.
The Right Place
In the McElduffs’ case, this is the right place.
“It’s an awesome neighborhood,” Anna said. And, she added, one of Matt’s brothers can continue to live with the family after they move.
That move will probably take several months. The McElduffs need to list their home for sale now and get it sold before they can buy the three-bedroom unit.
And almost all the applicants said they wanted to continue living in Vail.
Scott Mohr and his wife, Kari, are currently living in a rented unit at the Vail Racquet Club with their baby, Leland.
“We’ve been looking all over,” Kari said. “But we’d love to stay in Vail.”
How the Lottery Works
The way the town’s lottery system is set up rewards those who have made a real commitment to living in town. Points are awarded for the number of years applicants have lived and/or worked in town. While Mohr had lived and worked in town for a decade, McElduff has 15 years of residence in town, and a career working on Vail Mountain.
The recent housing lottery was an unusual event — the current owner wants to sell, and the first eligible buyer didn’t want the home. The annual housing lottery — most often for one- and two-bedroom units — is held in July. Applications are available April 1 and due in June. Timm said it often takes that long for applicants to pull together the information they need.
Good records are helpful, Timm said, but not always possible. Establishing proof of residence can be tough for those who have spent time renting a room from someone in town.
The application process also requires pre-approval for a mortgage.
It’s a lot of time and effort, and the results don’t always pay off. But, Timm said, people who end up in the higher tiers of the lottery system can often end up with a unit with in a year or two of their first application.
And the system remains popular — after all, it’s a chance to own a home in Vail at a relatively low price.
“Seeing all those kids in that room made me wish we had units for all five (families),” Timm said.
And one of the applicants in the North Trail lottery asked if any more units are coming into the town’s housing inventory any time soon.
Timm replied that the Vail Town Council is investigating what kind of housing should be built on the Chamonix parcel in West Vail.
“You need to email your elected officials,” Timm said. “Let them know what you want there.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.
Few people know the sound of a bomb blowing off a limb and the screams that follow. A few of those know the sound of healing and the laughter that follows.