Vail Valley has strong demand, limited supply for smaller housing units
- Vail has a jobs/housing imbalance of about 6,000 jobs, meaning there are 6,000 more employees than places to live within the town limits.
- Conversely, there are more workers than jobs in the western valley.
- In 2017, there were 7,660 rental units in the Vail Valley.
- If there was a 5 percent vacancy rate, that number would be 7,970.
EAGLE COUNTY — A lot of young professionals in the valley would rather not live with roommates. That can be hard. Just ask Makenzie Mueller.
Mueller is a young professional in her mid-20s. She grew up in the valley, graduating from Battle Mountain High School in 2012. She’s recently returned to the area to work in her father’s business, Remonov & Company.
Mueller doesn’t want to live with roommates, and she doesn’t want to live with her parents. So, for now, she’s still renting a place in Salt Lake City, working remotely when possible and staying at her parents’ place for a few days at a time when she’s in town.
“It’s actually cheaper to live in Salt Lake City and commute,” Mueller said.
And, Mueller said, she’s adamant about having her own space. A former Battle Mountain classmate is in a similar position, holding a manager’s job in the valley. She shares a home in Singletree with five other people.
The need for one’s own space is just part of the valley’s housing crunch.
Eagle County Housing Director Kim Bell Williams said the valley currently needs another 800 units simply to address overcrowding.
“Rents are increasing, and people are choosing to share bedrooms,” Williams said. “You find four people sharing a two-bedroom condo.”
While rental units are being built, Williams said it’s still hard to for a single person to find non-roommate housing.
“We need all types of units: rental, sale, small, big… ultimately there’s a lot of pressure on those smaller units.”
The valley’s active lifestyle — and the gear that goes with it — puts even more pressure on those seeking smaller units. Williams said people looking at a deed-restricted, two-bedroom, one-bath unit in Miller Ranch, and quickly ask: “”Where do I put my skis and bikes?”
Kelly Herzog is one of three principals in Zogo, a development company owned by her, her husband and her husband’s brother.
That firm recently opened “thehouse,” a former hotel in Eagle that’s been converted to 54 studio apartments. Those units are furnished, with kitchenettes. The hotel’s common areas have been turned into community spaces.
Herzog acknowleged that the community spaces have been a little slow to come together. On the other hand, the first residents just moved in Dec. 1. Most, presumably are working.
Herzog said thehouse isn’t full yet, but she expects to be fully leased in in the next few weeks.
Filling thehouse is a contrast to another project the Herzogs developed, the Red Table Apartments in Gypsum. Those filled quickly, but the Herzogs only brought eight units at a time into the market.
Herzog said when vacancies do come up at Red Table, they’re generally filled in a day or two.
The Red Table apartments are one- and two-bedroom units. Another Herzog-owned project, an older eight-unit building in Eagle, also fills quickly.
Herzog said there’s a lot of demand, adding that a number of people are ready to be rid of roommates.
One of the first tenants at Red Table was a school teacher in her early 40s.
“It’s the first time she’d lived on her own,” Herzog said. “It was fun to give that experience to her.”
But is it convenient?
Herzog noted that thehouse in particular is a handy place. It’s close to Eagle’s City Market store, as well as restaurants and a liquor store. The apartments are also near the town’s park and ride facility, which gives access to the county’s ECO Transit service, as well as the state’s Bustang service to Denver.
Mueller said she gave thehouse a serious look — “It’s a really great idea,” she said — but ultimately decided to keep looking for a place in Edwards or points east.
“To me, studios and one-bedrooms are perfect,” Mueller said, adding she belives smaller units are an overlooked part of the market.
And, while the western-valley communities are fine in their own right, Mueller doesn’t want to be a commuter.
“I went to school in San Francisco,” she said. “I moved (from there) because I didn’t want to commute. Gypsum’s great, but my passion is hiking, skiing, climbing… it seems silly to have to commute here.”
For now, Mueller’s willing to wait for the right thing to open up. In the meantime, more units are coming, but not enough to satisfy the shortage.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2930.