Group: Housing crunch nearing ‘crisis’ |

Group: Housing crunch nearing ‘crisis’

Scott N. Miller
NWS Timber Ridge1 KH 11-14-06

EDWARDS – Could new paint or private bedrooms affect the way the Vail Valley’s work force treats its customers?”The quality of housing is passed on to guests,” Tom Gorman of Vail Valley Medical Center said. The hospital has a hard time getting, and keeping people, due in no small part to the seasonal housing the medical center has. The quality of the apartments is “not good” at The Tarnes, at the base of Beaver Creek, Gorman said.

The Middle Creek apartments in Vail are just a couple of years old, and close to the hospital, but Gorman said life there could be better. The problem the hospital has is that because of income requirements on renters at Middle Creek, the medical center can lease only three-bedroom units. But because those apartments have only two bathrooms, medical professionals in for a season won’t live more than two to an apartment, and many of them would prefer to live alone.”There are kids there who call it ‘the prison,'” Gorman said, referring to Middle Creek. “That’s the attitude they go to work with.”Everything from the number of people per bedroom to the essence of what makes a community is up for discussion over the next few months by a group called the “Blue Ribbon Housing Committee.” That group is made up of representatives of the county, its towns and businesses.Keeping employees will probably be a key part of whatever strategy the group comes up with. Diane Johnson of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District said that organization has determined it can cost $40,000 to recruit and train a new employee.

While various committees and task forces have discussed housing for years, Eagle County Administrator Bruce Baumgartner said he’d like to have the framework of a countywide housing program in place by the middle of 2007.But why is 2006 different than 1986?”We have an unprecedented imbalance now,” Eagle County Commissioner Peter Runyon said. “Second homes and shopping center building is far outstripping housing for locals.”Besides Runyon’s view that too much commercial and second-home building is going on is the reality that Eagle County can’t much longer count on its neighbors to feed its work force.The oil and gas boom in western Garfield County has created an employee shortage from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, said Don Cohen of the Eagle County Economic Council. If people are taking good-paying jobs close to their homes in Rifle instead of driving to Carbdondale, those people certainly aren’t going to make the drive to Eagle County, Cohen said.Neighboring Lake County can’t be counted on to fill the local employee pool either, Cohen said. Living at 10,000 feet is tough, especially in the winter, he said. And bringing the thousands of workers Eagle County is expected to need in the coming 20 years over Battle Mountain just isn’t realistic.Solving the county’s housing problems, Runyon said, will take cooperation between the county, towns and businesses.Besides more hospitable housing for seasonal workers, committee members started talking about more complicated ways to ensure the county can keep working families, too.

Panel members suggested solutions involving, among other things, waiving fees for developers who build higher-density projects instead of more expensive housing. And some talked of the need for “political will” to create higher-population housing over the complaints of both developers and neighbors.Nearly everyone at the meeting, though, agreed that “deed restrictions” – contracts that limit the appreciation of homes built with government help – aren’t the entire answer.”That gets people into homes they can’t get out of,” said Mark Ristow of the Vail Housing Authority.Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or Daily, Vail Colorado CO

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