Vail will fund a two-person housing department in its 2018 operating budget
VAIL — The Vail Town Council has set housing as its top priority. In 2018, the town’s staffing will better reflect that priority.
The recently-approved 2018 budget appropriates $500,000 for the purchase of deed restrictions. But the budget also anticipates funding a two-person housing department. That includes a director and an administrative person, doubling the current staff dedicated solely to housing.
Lynne Campbell is the current housing coordinator, and has plenty of work to do, including managing real estate sales on deed-restricted units, conducting annual compliance checks on deed-restricted units and working as staff for the operating committee of the Timber Ridge apartments.
Funding for the new department hasn’t been made and will probably be appropriated in a regularly-scheduled supplemental appropriation.
Vail Town Manager Greg Clifton said the department will likely be housed in the Vail Community Development Department building, west of town hall. Some of the work may be done by existing personnel.
“We’re really not talking about more government,” Clifton said.
The new director’s job description is still being developed, and Clifton said he’s going to be careful about formulating that description and hiring the right person.
Much of the town’s housing-development work has been done for some time by Vail Community Development Department Director George Ruther — along with his other responsibilities.
“That’s a lot for one person,” Clifton said. “It’s not a sustainable arrangement.”
Looking to the future
The new housing department will work closely with the Vail Local Housing Authority on both future development and administration.
Clifton said the Vail Housing 2027 plan is straightforward in its goal of deed-restricting another 1,000 new or existing units over the next decade. Reaching that goal requires means — money — and methods. The new department is part of those methods.
Clifton noted that work on workforce housing doesn’t end when units are built or deed-restriction deals are finalized. Deed restrictions in town require annual compliance checks. Add 1,000 deed-restricted units to the existing 700 and you get a lot of paperwork. That’s why Clifton said there’s a need for additional staff resources.
Ruther said there’s too much policy and planning work to go along with the day-to-day responsibilities. Hence, the need for two people in the department.
Housing Authority Chairman Steve Lindstrom said he welcomes the additional attention housing is receiving at the staff level.
“It’s a good idea to bolster the housing staff,” Lindstrom said. “I just feel like we could be working at this a bit more if we had some help.”
Laurie Mullen is the co-owner of West Vail Liquor Mart. That business has for years owned a few employee housing units in the nearby Vail Das Schone building. Mullen also welcomes the idea of putting more resources into the town’s housing efforts.
“Being in a market that’s expensive and has limited land, (adding workforce housing) is not an easy goal to achieve,” she said.
Mullen acknowledged that it can be hard for small businesses to take on its own workforce housing needs. But, she added, businesses should work with the town on “creative opportunities” to add housing.
The Solar Vail deal
The Vail Town Council recently approved a deal for one of those opportunities. Sonnenalp Properties and the town recently forged an agreement for Vail to buy deed restrictions on a 65-unit apartment complex that will replace the current 24-unit Solar Vail apartments. Sonnenalp Properties owns Solar Vail and has nine deed restricted units there. The company will acquire deed restrictions on another nine units when it replaces the old Solar Vail apartments.
Sonnenalp Properties has taken on the entire risk for the project, but the town was asked for — and agreed to fund — deed restrictions of $65,000 per unit, a total of $4.225 million. That money came from an existing housing fund of $3.7 million, along with another $500,000.
“I applaud (Sonnenalp Properties) for their leadership and creativity on this,” Mullen said.
Ruther said recently that the town has made more progress on housing in the past two-and-a-half years than in the previous 20. That’s good news to Lindstrom, a longtime member of the housing authority board.
“There’s good momentum,” Lindstrom said. “We need to keep it up now, and funding and help are what we need.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.