Local goal: 500 affordable homes a year | VailDaily.com

Local goal: 500 affordable homes a year

Dominique Taylor/Daily file photoHousing workers is a big a potential crisis at the pine beetles eating local forests, one local economic analyst says.

EDWARDS ” Creating 500 affordable homes a year is the aim of a “housing coalition” that’s now being pieced together.

“Nobody denies the problem,” said Don Cohen, executive director of the Economic Council of Eagle County, which has been charged with creating a countywide housing group. “This is like looking at the dead trees on the hillside. We have bark beetles and we have housing.”

Within the next few weeks, Cohen will present the towns and the county with an “intergovernmental agreement” that would create the Eagle Valley Housing Coalition.

He will also ask local governments and large employers for the $200,000-$250,000 the housing council will need for 2008. That number could grow to $500,000 per year in several years, he said.

The creation of the coalition was recommended by a group of local politicians and businessmen.

Tony O’Rourke, executive director of the Beaver Creek Resort Company, said the company has already committed $5,000 to the housing council.

“We certainly have committed in the past, and we have strong interest in being partners,” said Tony O’Rourke, executive director of the Beaver Creek Resort Company.

Restaurants, hotels, the ski company and the resort company are struggling to find good employees, O’Rourke.

And good employees are needed for Beaver Creek to provide top-level service, he said.

“We’re in the service business,” O’Rourke said. “If we can’t provide good service, they’re going to go elsewhere. And we can’t provide the price points we charge out here and not provide outstanding customer service.”

Some local politicians seem to be on board with the creation of the housing council.

“One way or another, we’ll participate,” said Mark Gordon, a Vail town councilman.

Cohen said he suspects the housing council will eventually need a tax or impact fees. He said the housing council would:

– Help people find housing by creating a database of affordable homes in the county.

– Share local, regional and national information with local governments.

– Get funding, maybe by hiring a lobbyist.

– Look into opportunities to buy land.

– Educate builders on how to create affordable housing.

– Track affordable-housing proposals that come before towns and the county.

– Track the towns’ and the county’s housing policies.

The organization would include a board of directors, an advisory committee and a technical advisory committee, Cohen said.

The housing council mirrors the recommendations of a report by the Urban Land Institute ” a nonprofit that studies land planning ” which urged regional collaboration to address the need for affordable housing.

It said the county needs 500 to 600 workforce-housing units each year over the next 20 years.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

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