Vail council discusses rules for new homes
• Pre-qualified potential buyers will be chosen by a traditional lottery.
• Owners must work, on average, at least 30 hours per week at an Eagle County business.
• Vail must be the owner’s primary residence.
• Appreciation may be tied to the Area Median Income.
• Owners must every year report to the town about compliance.
VAIL — Aside from the difficult nuts-and-bolts questions about building 32 new townhomes at the Chamonix property in West Vail, town officials have an equally tough task: determining who will be able to buy one of those units.
The town currently has a list of 393 people who have expressed interest in the homes. Not everyone will qualify, of course — homes are estimated to cost between $431,000 and $684,000. Still, it’s likely demand will out-strip supply.
The Vail Local Housing Authority Board has been working on the conditions and restrictions regarding buying and living in the Chamonix homes. The Vail Town Council is expected to finalize those rules at its Dec. 20 meeting.
Before acting, the council and housing authority board talked Tuesday afternoon about the authority board’s ideas.
If approved by the council, the Chamonix buyers’ lottery will in some ways upend the town’s current lottery system. That system applies a number of criteria for potential buyers and isn’t really a lottery at all. Buyers who have lived and worked in Vail the longest are usually the ones chosen to buy units that come up for sale.
“What we heard during a focus group meeting was that if you haven’t been here a very long time, you don’t have much of a chance,” Vail Community Development Department Director George Ruther said. “We’ve seen the number of people in the lottery stagnate.”
Under the proposed system — again, only for the Chamonix units — buyers who qualify for financing and meet other criteria will have their names put into a hat — or something like it. The first name out of the hat goes to the front of the purchase line.
“This is about creating community,” Ruther said. “Whether you’ve been here for one year or 25, you can meet the criteria.”
Those other criteria include full-time employment in Eagle County — an average of 30 hours per week every year. Someone close to retirement age has to live in a unit and meet residency and work requirements for at least five years.
The proposed residency rules also include a limitation on owning other real estate. Anyone who owns another unit in the county will have to sell it — or be close to closing or put a deed restriction on it — before closing on a Chamonix unit.
Appreciation is another big difference with existing deed restrictions in the Vail’s housing program.
Most other deed restrictions are appreciation-capped based on inflation, usually the Denver-Boulder Consumer Price Index. The idea for Chamonix is to tie appreciation to a different standard: Area Median Income.
This is ‘shelter’?
Board member James Wilkins, who works for the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District — which has an active employee housing program — told council members that under the consumer price index model, a unit at, say, Vail Commons, is less affordable now than it was in 1999 because wages haven’t kept pace with inflation.
Council member Dick Cleveland said the income-based model could help keep units affordable for future buyers.
But tying appreciation — or loss — to wages will lower appreciation.
“We need to get away from thinking this is a retirement investment,” authority board chairman Steve Lindstrom said. “This is shelter, a place to live.”
Council member Greg Moffet was taken aback by the idea. If that’s the case, why doesn’t the town just build rental units, he asked.
Authority board member Mary McDougall was in the banking business when many of the Vail Commons units closed in 1999.
“People there said, ‘I can control my destiny,’” McDougall said, adding that mortgage payments are a certainty.
Rental rates are often raised when a new landlord buys a unit, or at the whim of the owners.
Certainty is part of creating community. Creating that certainty, though, will occupy even more of the council’s time Dec. 20.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.