Vail InDEED program earns national recognition for innovation

Program has been replicated in some form in several other communities

The new Solar Vail apartments in Vail were financed in part by the town of Vail purchasing deed restrictions on the units.
Chris Dillmann |

Vail Home Partners, a partnership between the Vail Town Council and the Vail Local Housing Authority, has received national recognition from the Urban Land Institute as the 2020 Robert C. Larson Housing Policy Leadership Award winner for the Vail InDEED program. The announcement follows a lengthy evaluation process that consisted of a jury review of the program and panel interviews. 

The awards recognize exemplary state and local programs, policies and practices that support the production, rehabilitation or preservation of affordable and workforce housing in the country. The Vail InDEED Program was recognized for its innovative approach to producing and preserving homes for residents of Vail through the acquisition of deed restrictions. It was selected as the sole recipient from among four semifinalists which included the cities of Houston, Tempe, and the state of Massachusetts.

Vail InDEED is unlike any other housing program in the country. Instead, it is a new and different way of thinking when it comes to addressing affordable housing needs within the community. Through the program, the town acquires perpetual deed restrictions from private property owners subject to a mutually accepted purchase agreement.

The program isn’t intended to be the sole answer to the town’s long-running workforce housing shortages, but it has been recognized as an effective tool to work in collaboration with other housing practices including inclusionary zoning, commercial linkage, development impact fees, and homebuyer assistance.

The Urban Land Institute is the oldest and largest network of cross-disciplinary real estate and land use experts in the world. The group’s mission is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide. The importance of housing is grounded in the founding of the organization in 1936. References to housing products and policy, and specifically to the provision of affordable housing, are included in Urban Land Institute’s Articles of Incorporation. Like Vail Home Partners, group believes that housing is a fundamental underpinning of healthy and thriving communities.

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Value to the community

Since the InDEED program’s inception, the town of Vail has acquired an additional 153 deed restrictions at a total cost of approximately $10.5 million. In total, more than 340 year-round and seasonal residents of Vail have been provided homes through the program. In comparison, 288 Vail residents presently live within the Timber Ridge Village Apartments. The town of Vail spent more than $20 million to acquire those apartments in 2003. 

Participants in the Vail InDEED program include first-time homeowners, longtime residents, business owners and long-term rental investors. 

“I have been involved with the Vail  InDEED program from many sides,” local real estate broker Dana Gumber said. “As an investment property owner, I found this program to be extremely helpful in getting into a property with built-in equity at the closing table. The deed restriction has allowed me to find long-term renters who want to live and work in this valley but cannot afford to purchase anything themselves. They get a fabulous condo and I have a long-term investment. These properties still appreciate, and as an investor, your costs are often covered. I am not only investing in really good Vail real estate, but I am providing opportunities for people that might not otherwise have them.”

The average purchase price of a deed restriction is slightly more than $68,000, which is more cost-effective than building new homes on land which is otherwise nearly non-existent within Vail. 

Efficient, effective

Steve Lindstrom, chair of the Vail Local Housing Authority, calls the program efficient and effective. 

“Vail InDEED is a valuable mechanism for us to partner with individuals and developers to protect and expand permanent housing options for our local residents,” he said.

The Vail Housing Department routinely fields calls regarding the Vail InDEED program from other communities across the country facing similar housing challenges. Due to the success of Vail’s program and the department’s interest in seeing other communities succeed, the concept has been replicated in Avon, Frisco, Breckenridge, Fraser and Winter Park, as well as in Placer County, California, and Charleviox, Michigan.

Learning of the award, Vail Housing Director George Ruther praised the Vail Town Council and the Vail Local Housing Authority. 

“The Town Council and the Authority members are to be commended for their demonstrated willingness to think differently about how best to address the housing challenges in Vail and understanding that to make a difference, they would need to take risks others before them were unwilling or unable to take,” Ruther said. “This award is given out annually only to the very best of the very best. Vail InDEED has become an example of a housing policy and practice for others to follow. It’s an example of what can be achieved when you refuse to follow the norm and accept the status quo.” 

Vail Home Partners will receive the award at the upcoming 2020 Urban Land Institute Fall Meeting in mid-October. Previous recipients of this award include New York City, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, City of Chicago, Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority and the Connecticut Housing Financing Authority.  

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