Vail adopts ‘bold’ plan that calls for 1,000 new deed-restricted homes
What’s the restriction?
Under the plan passed Tuesday by the Vail Town Council, future deed restrictions in town won’t affect appreciation on units, but will instead require only that residents work in Eagle County for at least 30 hours per week. Those who meet that requirement can retire in a restricted unit. Restrictions will be checked every year, as residents will be required to submit a legal affidavit that they’re in compliance.
That requirement may be tightened to focus more on employment in Vail.
VAIL — Kim Rediker has served on the Town Council, on the Vail Local Housing Authority and other community boards. She wouldn’t live in town unless she’d been able to buy a deed-restricted home.
With Rediker and others in mind, the Vail Town Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution of support for a new housing plan for the town. (Jen Mason and Dick Cleveland were absent.) That plan calls for the town to purchase deed restrictions on 1,000 homes and apartments in the next decade.
Council members agreed with the housing authority that a bold step is needed, and quickly, to keep as much housing as possible available for year-round residents. The pool of those available units is dwindling, and quickly.
Since 2010, only 10 percent of all homes sold in Vail have been purchased by full-time residents. The rest have gone to second- home buyers.
At the moment, about two-thirds of the town’s roughly 7,200 housing units are owned by second home owners. Of the rest, about 700 are already deed restricted, leaving only about 1,750 units potentially available for free-market sale.
Second home buyers fuel much of the town’s culture and philanthropy, something town officials quickly acknowledged Tuesday.
On the other hand, Vail Community Development Department Director George Ruther noted that every unit sold to a second home buyer is a unit lost to a full-time resident. Town officials, and most residents who commented on the plan, said that status quo is unacceptable.
“The status quo means that everyone who lived in a home in Vail is just keeping it warm for a second home (buyer),” council member Greg Moffet said. “That status quo has hideous unintended consequences.”
Rediker attended Tuesday’s meeting, and praised the town staff and housing authority for work on the plan.
‘Moving the needle’
“This is a brilliant idea,” Rediker said, adding that previous town efforts to create more housing haven’t “moved the needle” on the need.
“The worst thing that can happen is you’ve appropriated money and it doesn’t get spent,” Rediker added.
There will be a substantial amount of money dedicated to the plan over the next few years.
The plan calls for spending about $3.7 million in the first year — $3.2 million from a housing fund that’s accumulated over many years, with another $500,000 from the town’s general fund. Future spending could approach $5 million per year. The exact source of that money hasn’t been finalized — some combinations of the town’s general fund, reserves and its capital improvements funds are likely — and could, at some point, require the town to ask voters to create some sort of permanent housing fund.
Those discussions will take place in the months to come — the plan calls for the housing authority board to meet twice a year with the town council to discuss progress.
The housing authority board will also make the decisions about when and how to buy deed restrictions from willing sellers.
The idea is to create a new market for full-time residents versus second home buyers. Sellers right now could be compensated by the town for restricting their property in the future.
While the plan had broad support in the meeting room, a couple of residents expressed some skepticism.
“This just smacks of social engineering,” resident Stephen Connolly said. Noting the sacrifices many current residents made to stay in Vail, Connolly asked why the town now feels “compelled to make it easier” for the next group.
Merv Lapin, who moved to Vail in 1966, had several pointed questions about the plan. He asked about the wisdom of putting “another bureaucratic layer on a problem I think can be solved in another way.” He also wondered if the housing authority should be vested with the kind of decision-making and spending authorization the plan envisions.
“You need to think about unintended consequences,” Lapin said.
But local restaurateur Matt Morgan said the plan seems “brilliant” to him.
“Like it or not, the town of Vail is in the housing business,” Morgan said. While Morgan’s group owns several units for employees to live in, he told the council that prospective employees are seeking work elsewhere because they can’t find housing in, or near, Vail. Morgan also noted that he might be willing to sell deed restrictions on his units in the future in order to keep those units in the long-term pool.
The plan’s success is far from assured. But, council members said, it’s time to try a different approach.
“We’ve always been considered leaders (in the resort industry), but in housing we’ve fallen short,” council member Jenn Bruno said. “This is new, it’s different, it’s bold. It might not work, but it’s certainly worth a try.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.
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