Michael Robinson: Affordable housing, the puzzle | VailDaily.com

Michael Robinson: Affordable housing, the puzzle

High Country Business Review

Affordable housing is one of the most talked-about topics throughout Eagle County these days. The challenge to focus on this issue may not be apparent to any individual, but one needs only compare notes with a colleague or neighbor to understand that this issue has more angles than a protractor.

What strikes me is the assumption often made that there is a perspective that affordable housing is not a desirable or even important issue facing our area ” it is, in fact, one of the most critical elements of our overall health as an economy that will only become more complicated as procrastination reigns over responsible action.

Recently, the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit organization that provides leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide, visited our area to assess its future sustainability. While the findings of this study may not have come as a surprise, I’ll never forget the audience’s reaction when the panel warned that if we as a region didn’t work cooperatively to address the housing situation throughout the valley, the valley itself would in the short term turn into a Third World economy.

“Could it be that bad?”

“Well, certainly that’s an exaggeration!”

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The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

“Interesting metaphor, but we won’t ever be compared to a Third World country… will we?”

This week the town of Vail will take on affordable housing in the form of a proposed ordinance that have many developers calling foul and have many other voices in the community cheering. Representing the business community, where both the needs of the developer and the needs of the employer must be factored in, I find myself in the middle, but I am thankful that the topic is being debated and that the debate is public. I just hope that it’s not short sighted.

Sure, affordable housing, along with transportation, tops the charts when it comes to issues facing Eagle County, but I am concerned that sole focus on any one issue will be a local version of the tune “Johnny One Note.” The truth behind the challenges facing our region’s economic development today is so much more than housing.

The fact is that current businesses are struggling to find ways to stay open beyond the season, current development is already on track to welcome dozens of new entrepreneurs and business folk to this valley, and many in business lack the support and resource awareness to think about a strategic business approach.

Through programs dedicated to supporting business ” especially smaller businesses ” the Vail Valley Partnership is working to make a difference in our local economy. Small steps, as we’re relatively new to this way of thinking, but how do you walk across the nation?

Thanks to our newly announced Vail Valley Access Health program, local businesses can work with the latest technology and product solutions to discover the best insurance coverage for their business, and thanks to the resources and associations that the Partnership enjoys with agencies such as the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, local businesses can tap into statewide and national expertise that will allow them to realize greater success.

These steps are just the beginning. The businesses that are considering expanding into new developments throughout the valley, or businesses looking to start in these new areas, will be able to count on the county’s largest business organization for leadership, information and access to the resources and tools necessary to succeed.

Additionally, as the region’s advocate for business and tourism, we work to ensure our advocacy is put into gear 365 days out of the year. In other words, we promote our destination year-round for what it offers year-round.

All the while, we cannot and will not abandon the pressing needs of the current chart topper: housing. We look forward to learning more from the developers and building industry, as we welcome more insight into the needs of the broader business community to recruit quality employees and sustain their business with workers who can truly take part in the amazing quality of life standards that define our area and lured many of us here.

And again, I applaud the Town of Vail for diving into this pool head-first ” just let’s make sure that the resolution is a comprehensive one that offers a real compromise among all parties involved ” business, residential, and government. In the meantime, while we’re dealing with these big trees, let’s not forget that the economic forest we’re in surrounds us, protects us and challenges us to be caretakers of it all.

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