Vail Housing Authority starts work to find stable funding for housing in town
Council member: Vail can't keep funding housing out of the town's general fund
VAIL — Two years into an ambitious 10-year plan to add 1,000 deed restricted units to the town’s inventory — through either construction or sale — it’s becoming clear the town needs a steady source of revenue into its housing fund.
The Vail Local Housing Authority in the past few months has taken what authority board chairman Steve Lindstrom called “the first step of 100” to find that revenue source.
At the Feb. 5 meeting of the Vail Town Council, Lindstrom provided an update about those early steps.
The authority board is ready to enter into a professional serviced agreement with Summit Information Services and Magellan Strategies to look into options for creating that stable source of funding.
The process will include looking at options, analysis of demand and other factors. If the authority board determines that a tax increase is the preferred option, the Town Council will be asked to send a ballot question to town voters as soon as November of this year.
The council would have to approve any question to the voters by August.
But there’s a lot of work to do before that.
Vail resident Bobby Lipnick is the co-chair of the volunteer Eagle County Housing Task Force. That group has a 10-year mission to increase the supply of workforce housing throughout the county.
Lipnick said he hopes there’s a lot of public input and education before any ballot issue goes to voters.
When Eagle County in 2016 proposed a .3 percent sales tax to fund housing, the measure was defeated by a roughly 2:1 margin. Lipnick said that result might have been different with more public education.
If Vail voters are asked any kind of tax question in November, Lipnick said it needs to be clear how the money would be raised, how it would be spent and how long the tax would last.
“This spring and summer, I’d like to see the Vail Housing Authority hold some public forums,” Lipnick said.
Whatever the authority ultimately recommends, Vail Town Council member Jenn Bruno said it’s essential that the town find housing money somewhere besides the town’s general fund.
“Our current model is not sustainable,” Bruno said. “We can’t keep using money out of the general fund.”
Bruno said housing in town will be a problem for “years to come,” adding that Vail needs to be innovative in finding solutions.
“Other communities are finding stable funding sources,” she said. “So can we.”
Bruno said Vail can’t allow people to keep leaving the community because they can’t find, or can’t afford, places to live. Residents seem to agree. The most recent town survey put housing at the top of residents’ concerns about the town.
While it’s too soon to start debating ideas — none have been presented yet — Bruno said the council won’t put anything on the ballot unless there’s community support.
If Vail voters are asked a tax question, Lipnick said that might create some momentum for another countywide effort.
And, he added, a stable funding source could help what could be a decade-plus effort to house the area’s workforce. Steady funding could also create some certainty for the public-private partnerships that are essential to building workforce housing.
“The public needs some funding source so (local government) can defray some entitlement costs and impact fees,” Lipnick said.
But first, there’s homework to be done.
“We’re trying to get the ball rolling and get whatever ideas we can,” Lindstrom said.