How will Vail use funds from its new housing sales tax?
Present plans, big plans for the future will require millions
With money from a new housing sales tax rolling in, Vail officials are talking about just what to do with that money.
The Vail Town Council and members of the Vail Local Housing Authority recently spent an hour talking about options and, perhaps, the future direction of the town’s housing efforts.
State law requires all tax increase ballot proposals to include an estimate of what that tax will collect in its first year.
Vail’s 2021 housing tax proposal — a 0.5% increase in sales tax, which exempted groceries — was estimated to raise roughly $4 million in its first year. The tax now seems on the way to exceed that figure.
That means Vail voters this fall will be asked if the town can keep what’s been collected in excess of the 2021 ballot measure estimate.
Authority Board Chairman Steve Lindstrom noted that funds can be used as they’re collected, or used to finance bonds for larger projects.
Council member Travis Coggin said he’d like to see the town continue to purchase and deed-restrict homes as they become available, at least until there’s a large project that requires issuing bonds.
The first of those big projects is likely to be replacing the existing Timber Ridge apartments. That project is likely to break ground in 2023 or 2024, and will eventually add at least 100 units to the complex’s current inventory of roughly 100 apartments.
In addition to in-town projects, Coggin added that the town should also look to participate in projects in EagleVail and Minturn.
But Council member Kevin Foley said that the town’s Vail InDeed program, which was created to put more deed-restricted housing in town, should be used only within the town limits. Foley also advocated for using town housing funds only for people who work or own businesses in Vail. The deed restriction system currently requires people to work an annual average of 30 hours per week at any business in Eagle County.
Still, “We have cash, and (other local governments) have land,” Coggin said, encouraging more partnerships.
But Council member Pete Seibert said there’s “a lot” of opportunity to build in town, citing the Cascade Village tennis courts, and the top of the Red Sandstone parking structure as examples. That structure was built to accommodate housing above its top deck.
While the town has purchased and deed-restricted a number of homes this year, Mayor Kim Langmaid noted that even those homes can be difficult to purchase. She suggested looking into creating a revolving loan fund to help those purchasers.
Council member Jonathan Staufer said town housing programs should find a way to make financing easier to meet prospective residents’ needs.
Council member Jen Mason said she’d like to see a way to tie at least some housing to specific businesses. That way, when a business sells, at least some housing comes with it.
Staufer also suggested the town look at housing as a “community-building” issue. That could prompt some who come to town for a season to stick around and, perhaps, eventually start their own businesses.
Authority board member Kristen Kenney Williams said she agreed with the idea of taking a “broader approach” to housing, “so people can see from day one … where they can get.”
In addition to money generated by the new sales tax, Lindstrom noted that federal funds, administered through the state, should be available in the next six months or so.
“If the state wants to give us money for housing, I’m certainly willing to have that conversation,” Coggin said.