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Housing rules are necessary

Vail Local Housing Authority
Special to the Daily
Vail CO, Colorado

Today, approximately 30 percent of Vail’s workforce lives in the Town of Vail. The Vail Town Council is considering two employee housing regulations at the April 3 Town Council evening meeting. The employee housing policy being considered for second reading will require that net new development will need to provide employee housing for at least 30 percent of their workforce. If passed, these requirements will do nothing to address existing employee housing deficits but will prevent the problem from being exacerbated by new development and redevelopment in the Town of Vail.

Commercial linkage ” requiring commercial developers to provide housing for a certain percentage of the jobs they create ” is not new to the Town of Vail.

Development and redevelopment have been subject to this requirement for at least the last 10 years, but have been negotiated with developers with an uneven application. The development community has repeatedly requested definition of this requirement so that there is greater predictability. Ordinance 7 will require new commercial development to mitigate for 20 percent of the net new employees. Under current policy, the mitigation rate has varied between 15 and 30 percent of net new employees (credit is given for existing commercial uses and will continue to be given credit).

Codifying this requirement will create predictability for developers in the development review process. It is important to note that employee housing requirements do not appear to put an end to redevelopment in town. There have been construction cranes continuously hovering over Vail for the past couple of years.

Ordinance 8 will require that new residential development set aside 10 percent of the net new residential floor area as employee housing. This application of “inclusionary zoning” will occur only in areas where there is high density, mixed-use zone districts ” typically found in Vail Village, Lionshead, and West Vail. The required employee housing can be provided on-site, off-site or provided through a fee-in-lieu. The passage of these requirements WILL NOT AFFECT properties zoned single-family residential, two-family residential, residential cluster, low density multi-family, medium density multi-family, etc.

Upon passage of these requirements the Town of Vail will join a long list of resort communities in Colorado that already use these strategies to ensure employee housing exists in the community. The following resort communities have enacted commercial linkage and/or inclusionary zoning: Aspen/Pitkin County, Snowmass Village, Garfield County, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, New Castle, Eagle County, Basalt, San Miguel County, Telluride and Steamboat.

The Town has been thinking about and looking at employee housing solutions for at least the last 10 years. The Vail Local Housing Authority has been looking at solutions since 2001. It is important to note that the Town Council has not rushed into these decisions and has consistently adhered to their stated goal of ensuring employee housing for at least 30 percent of Vail’s workforce. They began studying the current problems and exploring solutions almost a year ago. Their commitment is so strong that in November 2006 they passed an emergency ordinance stating their intent to pass employee housing regulations and put property owners on notice that all future development will be subject to these requirements.

Many people have asked for a specific employee housing plan defining how many units are needed and what types of units are needed. In light of the fact that the town is implementing employee housing requirements for employees, and not units, it is not possible to project exactly how many units are needed or will be developed in the future. The size and mix of the units will be shaped over time as the community stresses different housing types at different points in time. The goal is to have employee housing policy and mitigation methods meet the employee housing goals of the entire community.

Consideration will need to be given to the type of community that Vail wants to be in the future. Because the types of housing generated by these requirements will shape the future community, the Town Council will evaluate the employee housing policy and mitigation on a regular basis.

The Vail Local Housing Authority recognizes that the Planning and Environmental Commission did not recommend approval of these ordinances. However, it must be pointed out that this lack of recommendation is inconsistent with the commission’s long standing policy of applying previously uncodified commercial linkage requirements to development/redevelopment projects.

The Vail Town Council approved ordinances 7 and 8 on first reading. Second reading will occur on April 3 and the Vail Local Housing Authority strongly supports Town Council in passing these employee housing requirements. Ensuring that employee housing exists in the Town of Vail for at least 30 percent of the workforce is the only way to maintain a resort community. Additionally, the housing authority believes that these two steps are the first of many that need to be taken towards addressing the employee housing shortage in the town of Vail.

These two ordinances will address keeping up with new demand as it is created, but do not address existing unmet demand issues.

There will need to be a broad base of solutions if Vail intends to remain a resort community in the future.


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