Some residents say they can’t afford new Vail townhomes | VailDaily.com

Some residents say they can’t afford new Vail townhomes

Initial estimates for the Chamonix development call for prices in the low $400,000 range for a two-bedroom unit with a garage. The largest units were estimated at nearly $700,000.

VAIL — For nearly a year, Ali Katz has been coming to meetings about the new Chamonix neighborhood in Vail. She may have attended her last meeting Tuesday.

Katz and her family are longtime valley residents, and currently live in Edwards. Ever since the idea for a for-sale neighborhood for locals was proposed, she has hoped she and her family could possibly move back to Vail. That might not be at Chamonix.

"We're priced out," Katz told the council. "We're just hoping that people at Vail Commons will take (Chamonix units) and we can take one of those."

That might not happen.

Vail Commons resident Tim Beall told the Vail Town Council it doesn't look like he and his neighbors can move out of those units — above Vail's City Market store — and into the new homes.

"I'd love to move in, but I don't want to put all my income into my house," Beall said.

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That leads to one of the biggest potential challenges with the neighborhood: The cost of new construction in Vail.

The council hasn't yet set price points for the project, but initial estimates started in the low $400,000 range for a two-bedroom unit with a garage. The largest units were estimated at nearly $700,000.

At those prices — especially at the top end — will there be buyers?

Council members Tuesday heard from Kim Bell Williams, of Eagle County's Valley Home Store, which handles sales at Miller Ranch in Edwards. Bell Williams told council members there are 119 people on the county's interested-buyer list. But, she added, only about 25 of those people qualify for a mortgage of, at most, $450,000.

"The step from Miller Ranch to (Chamonix) is a big jump," Bell Williams said.

Lowering Prices?

Potential pricing had council members asking the Chamonix development team for ways to make those units more affordable.

One idea is to build a bedroom in half of the two-bedroom units' two-car garages. That would allow buyers to bring in a roommate, or, perhaps, open up a smaller unit to a family.

Another prospect is a cash subsidy to buyers. Between land, utility installation and other costs, the town already has roughly $127,000 invested in each of the proposed units. Council members may have to decide whether to bring prices down through a straight cash subsidy. A discount of $50,000 per unit would cost the town $1.6 million.

Other alternatives include altering the mix of units or making some units smaller.

Council member Jen Mason wondered if every unit really needs a garage. Mason and her husband have lived for years in a home that doesn't have indoor parking.

"A two-car garage is decadent," Mason said. "We're trying to make this affordable."

Vail Community Development Department Director George Ruther said bringing down costs could also include "value engineering."

Council member Greg Moffet said that could mean lowering the quality of the homes, but Ruther said there are ways to maintain a homes efficiency with products that are less expensive.

"There's a way to get there without crappy units," Ruther said.

Council members are likely to make a decision about the mix of units at the Dec. 20 meeting. Harder information about costs — and pricing — will come in the weeks following that meeting.

Ruther said the schedule is getting tighter as the council takes more time with decisions. But, he added, the target is still to start building in the spring of 2017 and deliver the first units by year's end.

As the meeting shifted to a different topic, Mayor Dave Chapin encouraged Katz to keep coming.

"I really hope this isn't your last meeting," he said.

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

What’s proposed*

• 32 units on a parcel in West Vail roughly behind the fire station.

• 10 two-bedroom units.

• 22 three-bedroom units.

• Estimated prices between the low-$400,000s and the high $600,000s.

*Final decisions are expected in the next several weeks.