Romer: Why do we need workforce housing? (column) | VailDaily.com

Romer: Why do we need workforce housing? (column)

Chris RomerValley Voices

A lack of housing that is affordable to employees creates challenges for our community. The success of families, children in school, the employees that our businesses need and our entire community is greatly improved when people have a safe place to call home.

Local governments are perhaps the most important factor in creating more housing for locals and need to be an active partner in solutions. We have more jobs available than the available labor force to fill them. A high percentage of second homes drives up the cost of housing. We have a proliferation of short-term rentals that reduces the inventory of long-term rental housing, further exacerbating the problem.

Vail Valley Partnership believes that there are a number of ways for local government to be partners in housing policy:

  • Communities need to find ways to get to yes and provide efficient entitlement processes.
  • Innovative projects that feature public-private-partnerships should be encouraged.
  • Our community needs all types of housing – from low-income rentals to for-sale neighborhood — and housing needs also fall in the middle, not just at the low- and high-ends of the spectrum.
  • It will take all kinds of projects, and all kinds of public-private partnerships and compromises, to solve our needs.
  • Local governments need to actively encourage and financially support housing as our communities need to be places where you can live, work, raise a family, start a business and retire.
  • Preserving livability means housing for locals needs to stay affordable for as many as possible.
  • Rental vacancy rates under 1 percent and increased short-term rentals cause undue upward pressure on long-term rental rates and are detrimental to the community related to employee retention and attraction.
  • Innovative projects should be encouraged.
  • A key to addressing the housing challenges in Eagle County is political will, exploring things such as fee waivers and density bonuses for workforce housing.

Within that framework, we are supportive of the East Vail public-private partnership proposed by Triumph Development and facilitated by Vail Resorts' land and water rights provisions, downzoning to Housing and Natural Area Preservation and master lease of one building. This housing opportunity, at this point in time, meeting this specific community need, is low-hanging fruit when it comes to moving the needle to create more housing in the town of Vail and making a greater number of units available for employees beyond Vail Resorts.

The town has been one of the leaders across the mountain region in the support of housing for locals. In the past three years, it has helped create more than 130 new homes for employees. The proposed partnership in East Vail is an opportunity to almost double that amount of housing in one project, at a net cost per unit that is less than half the cost of other recent housing efforts.

The town of Vail and private partners have done an admirable job of focusing on infrastructure — the new Interstate 70 underpass, landscaping and drainage improvements at the East Vail interchange, new parks, streetscaping and the Civic Area Plan efforts. Given the fact that housing is a top concern for the town residents and businesses, housing infrastructure should be on the list of "need to have" and should take priority moving forward.

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We encourage the Vail Town Council to support this public-private partnership and believe this model is the best viable solution to our severe housing shortage. Letters to the council (towncouncil@vailgov.com) and in-person support at the upcoming Tuesday Town Council meeting are invaluable in giving our leaders the public input they need to make this investment in our community.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at http://www.vailvalleypartnership.com.