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Harder for locals to compete

Jim Lamont

Following is an excerpt of a report by Jim Lamont, executive director of the Vail Village Homeowners Association, assessing Vail’s economic and community development. We will run parts of the report each day in this space until completed. This is part 2.The Population Trends of New Vail: The economic advancement resulting from redevelopment will alter both the community’s form and function. It will physically emerge with two specialized and geographically distinct town centers. Vail Village and Lionshead will be unified into the resort town center, and the domestic needs of the community will emerge out of the West Vail shopping center to become the community town center. The demarcation between guests, working, retired, full, and part-time residents will be altered through attrition, social, economic advancement, and displacement. The sense of community will change. The cultural and social fabric of the population will become a more direct reflection of the values of the retirement, part-time resident population, and destination and day-visitor guest. Increasingly, there will be competition between current local residents and the new arrivals both for housing and dominance of the governance system. In large measure, without increases in wages competitive with the larger economy, Vail’s working population will be displaced. It cannot compete economically with the incoming population. These processes are already under way, with more of the working population living in government-subsidized housing projects each year. Recent trends have not shown that wages or incomes of the working population have dramatically improved, in relationship to the cost of living, resulting from the ongoing construction boom in second homes over the past decade. Increasingly, there are reports of conflict between existing residents and speculative second-home developers in residential neighborhoods. The family friendly ethos of the local community’s working population will increasingly be difficult to maintain because of the realities of economic competition in resorts generally, Vail’s aging local population, and the low-paying jobs associated with the recreation industry. While indigenous residential property owners have benefited by seeing increases in their property values, it is a mixed blessing. The benefit only occurs when the property is sold or in refinancing a mortgage. Increasing values are universal throughout the Vail community. Consequently, it is nearly impossible to buy up. Therefore, the trend for most local people is to buy outside of the Vail, downvalley where they get more for their investment dollar. There are limited opportunities to integrate low-density affordable housing throughout the community. There are even fewer opportunities to build higher-density mixed residential and commercial projects (community town centers) designed to overcome the stigmatization associated with living in high-density employee projects sequestered away from the broader community. There has been no effort to include residential housing for local residents in major redevelopment projects, other than in dormitory configurations. This is shortsighted and should be corrected. Residents that live in a neighborhood contribute vitality and a sense of reality, which is an attraction to guests. A shrinking and alienated working population does nothing to enhance consumer services. To the contrary, it is a disincentive to retaining and attracting them. The urbanization process, without intervention, displaces noncompetitive local populations to the suburbs, or they migrate elsewhere, further complicating the sustaining of a viable working population. Unless the private sector takes pre-emptive steps to satisfy the need, in the interest of the resort consumer, Vail’s government will be required to intervene so that social equity provisions, such as affordable housing, are included in all zone districts. Vail, Colorado


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