Vail Valley Partnership column: The day of the silent majority is over
Oregon Coast Today recently reported:
“Certainly, it (workforce housing) is not just tourism-based businesses that are running into this problem. The hospitals are saying doctors and nurses aren’t coming because they can’t find affordable housing. Teachers are saying the same thing. Builders are not building for the low-income market. They are going for the least risk and highest reward. Someone building million-dollar homes isn’t going to suddenly say, ‘Oh, out of the goodness of my heart, I’ll build a $200,000 home.’”
Sound familiar? It should, because here in the Vail Valley (and in communities throughout Colorado), we are facing the same challenges as the Oregon coast.
Now’s the time to act. Mick Daly from the Eagle Chamber of Commerce, in a recent email blast, shared the following: “There is no silver bullet for affordable housing, so we must grasp every chance that presents itself. … (Elected officials) face a challenge when hearing public comment on many proposed development projects or other topics. Locals often turn out in numbers to oppose much-needed change, yet very few, if any, speak up in favor of these projects. This puts our leaders in an untenable position: If they support change and progress, they may appear to be going against ‘public opinion’ — that of their electorate. I believe the day of the silent majority is over.”
Let’s hope Mick is right, and I think he is. The lack of affordable housing has long been a problem throughout Eagle County. During the recession (remember 2009 to 2011?) there was a softening of the real estate market in Eagle County — both home sale prices and rental rates. Of course, housing prices have been increasing during the past several years, rental occupancy and rates have increased, and short-term rentals have reduced the supply of housing units serving the county’s workforce.
Eagle County is growing, and we’re growing because of job creation. Remarkably, 80 percent of Eagle County businesses have fewer than 10 employees. Eagle County’s jobs are forecast to increase to 50,000 by 2032 and to 60,000 by 2040.
It’s not only Eagle County; the State Demography Office projects Colorado’s population to exceed 5.9 million by the year 2020, and 6.4 million by 2025, with continued peaks and valleys of economic change. This represents a 28 percent increase between 2010 and 2025. Continued growth will impact schools, transportation, air quality and other public services. Locally and throughout Colorado, we need to address housing to allow our businesses to grow.
As Mick stated, there is no silver bullet to addressing the housing situation. It’s a multifaceted problem. So, we are trying to bring the community together to solve it, and we are looking for the silent majority to make their voice heard. Together, we can make headway on a path filled with obstacles. Together, we can create working solutions.
You, the silent majority, are invited to join us as we explore workforce housing at the NIMBY Jamboree: Creating a Health Community through Workforce Housing on Aug. 2 and 3. This two-day event is a collaboration with Vail Symposium, Vail Valley Partnership’s Workforce Housing Coalition and concerned citizens.
The jamboree will explore the current housing situation in Eagle County and look at pathways for moving forward, featuring national speakers on housing, town hall meetings and site visits. Consider joining and helping us frame the future.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at http://www.vailvalley partnership.com.