Vail open to housing options
By the numbers:
69 percent: Vail Valley employers who say housing negatively affects their ability to hire.
53 percent: Vail Valley employees who say finding housing is a “major frustration.”
Source: Vail Valley Economic Development.
$3,600: Monthly rent for an East Vail duplex advertised in the June 13 Vail Daily.
$1,250: Monthly rent for a studio condo near Nottingham Lake in Avon, advertised in the June 13 Vail Daily.
VAIL — It wasn’t long after the first gondola car clattered up Vail Mountain in 1962 that people started wondering where everyone was going to live. Now, 54 years later, Vail’s housing problem may be as serious as it’s ever been.
That problem has created a new focus at Vail’s Town Hall, where Town Housing Director Alan Nazzaro’s job is to help find more homes for residents. But before town officials can find money for projects, much less put crews to work, a plan is needed. That means a big part of Nazzaro’s job is revising Vail’s various plans and regulations regarding housing.
That part of the job kept Nazzaro going virtually non-stop Wednesday. Through the day there were meetings with business owners, bankers, real estate brokers and others — nine meetings in all.
Nazzaro topped that day with an evening meeting for residents to talk about the subject Vail residents have always talked about.
Acknowledging that Vail has a number of housing regulations, Nazzaro added that “we’re not hitting the mark” when it comes to housing. There are plans for a new, for-sale project in West Vail. But with the advent of internet-vacation rentals, which have taken a number of former long-term rentals out of the pool, “we’re not keeping up,” Nazzaro said.
About 15 people came to the Wednesday evening meeting, with a couple of big ideas coming from the crowd.
In the trees, on the road
Longtime residents Michael Cacioppo and Mark Schelde each offered an idea of how to get ahead of Vail’s chronic problem.
Cacioppo proposed using U.S. Forest Service property on Vail Mountain for dormitory-style housing for seasonal employees.
“It’s our land,” Cacioppo said, proposing that the dormitories could be built away from the town’s pricey slopeside real estate. Building ski-in/ski-out apartments would then free up units from the valley’s current housing inventory for year-round residents.
Schelde’s idea might be more audacious — building 3,000 units of rental housing above Interstate 70. That would put people close to the resort villages, Schelde said, and would help cut costs for transportation and, perhaps, cut the number of drunken-driving citations issued in the valley.
Rod Slifer, who has lived in Vail since its first season, told Schelde that building atop the interstate has been proposed before, but was found to be wildly expensive. It would also require an act of Congress to authorize.
Nazzaro said the town is now exploring using smaller parcels of Forest Service property for housing, but off the mountain and away from existing neighborhoods. That survey is now in the hands of consultants, he said, but there could be several parcels ranging in size from 6 to 8 acres that might be usable for housing.
Aside from the big ideas, other residents told their own stories.
Andy Benedict has lived in Vail for 20 years, and has always been a renter. Benedict said he’s now in the town’s lottery system for buyers of appreciation-capped, for-sale housing. Despite having the best qualifications of any resident in the last round of the purchase lottery, Benedict said his name was drawn eighth in a nine-person field last year.
“The lottery system is broken,” Benedict said, adding that he hopes the Chamonix project in West Vail would focus on providing one- and two-bedroom units. That project — the size and scope of which isn’t final — is viewed by some town officials as a way to either keep, or bring back, families.
Room to grow
Kevin Hochtl was born in Vail. He and his wife now live in a one-bedroom condo. The couple would like a little more room, but would also like to stay in Vail, he said, but the internet-rental market is affecting their ability find more space.
In Hochtl’s view, one of the biggest parts of Vail’s housing problem is that “we live in a great place,” adding that the town needs to work on both seasonal and long-term housing.
Nazzaro said the current planning effort isn’t “aimed at just one segment; it’s across the board.”
But planning isn’t building, and a couple of long-term residents think quick action is needed.
John Mills, of the Sonnenalp, moved to Vail in 1975. He said not addressing the housing problem “is going to kill us.”
Beth Slifer echoed that sentiment, adding that Vail needs to present a concrete plan before asking voters for funding.
“This is the same conversation I’ve heard for 30 years,” she said. “We’ve got to be the leaders in this.”
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