Plenty of interest in Chamonix homes | VailDaily.com

Plenty of interest in Chamonix homes

VAIL — The Chamonix affordable housing project in West Vail has been the subject of a lot of talk over the past couple of years. There was a bit of action recently.

On Tuesday, the Vail Town Council voted to pursue a public-private partnership to develop for-sale, appreciation-capped housing on a 3.6-acre parcel along Chamonix Drive. The land is near the West Vail fire station. The results of the vote mean the town will retain ownership of the parcel, and will work with a developer to build homes on the land. That's how the town built the new Lion's Ridge Apartments, on the east side of the Timber Ridge property.

Work has already begun on street and utility work at the site, but town officials still need to answer a lot of questions before moving forward. Those questions include ones that are basic and more complex, ranging from how many units can be built to pricing and the amount of town subsidy required to keep the units affordable.

Survey Results

“We’re going to have to be really careful how we implement this.” Dick ClevelandVail town council member

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One piece of that still-evolving puzzle comes from a survey the town conducted. Those who took the survey — 187 in all — are all potential Chamonix buyers. They answered questions about their time of residence in the valley, their jobs and income. They also answered questions about what kind of homes they'd like to buy.

Most — 67 percent — said they'd prefer townhomes or duplexes, which wasn't a surprise.

But Vail Housing Department Manager Alan Nazarro said that those who took the survey represent a broad section of the Vail community. Half of the respondents represented families. Just more than one-third said they have children at home — keeping families with children in Vail is a key goal of the project.

The occupation split showed that 60 percent of respondents work in recreation, restaurant, retail and similar service jobs. That group also represents police officers, firefighters and other municipal and special-district employees.

There was a broad range of household income represented in the survey, too, with 41 percent able to afford a mortgage between $300,000 and $399,000. Almost one-third could afford a mortgage of $400,000 or more. Just more than a quarter of respondents could only take on a loan of $275,000 or less.

Cost of Building

When the homes are built, those who take on those mortgages will see only limited appreciation on their homes. The appreciation cap in Vail now is 3 percent per year or less.

But what kind of homes will carry those prices?

"We have to understand the real costs of building," council member Dick Cleveland said. "If you're building 2,000 square feet at $350 (per square foot), that cost is $750,000. We're going to have to be really careful how we implement this."

That kind of cost will lead to more discussions about how much the town and its taxpayers are willing to subsidize buyers in the effort to get more full-time residents in town.

But council member Greg Moffet said that the discussion about cost has to also include quality.

Quality of Development

"Developers will say if you want to get the price down, we'll put junk in" regarding finishes and other amenities, Moffet said. "We need to make sure the finish levels are something we'd all want to live in."

While survey respondents said they'd prefer larger units, council member Jenn Mason said the survey left out a crucial question: "Would you accept a smaller space if your chances of winning the (housing) lottery increased?"

With the council moving forward with the idea of working with a private developer, Nazarro said the next step for town officials is issuing a request for qualifications. That will help officials narrow the field of possible developers and help refine the next step, a request for proposals.

At that point, the town and developer will work on a plan that includes the number and type of units, as well as pricing.

Officials are still optimistic that home construction could start this year.

"I hope we can meet that schedule," Mayor Dave Chapin said. "This needs to get done."

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.

By the numbers

187: People who completed surveys about the proposed Chamonix housing development.

60 percent: Survey respondents who hold service-sector jobs.

40 percent: Survey respondents who can afford a mortgage of $300,000 or more.

$87,500: Median annual household income of those who took the survey.