Who should build workforce housing?
Each week, the Vail Daily will publish a Q&A with the four Eagle County commissioner candidates. Democrat and incumbent commissioner Peter Runyon will be running against Republican and former commissioner Dick Gustafson for the upvalley seat. Democrat Jon Stavney will be running against Republican Debbie Buckley for the midvalley seat vacated by term-limited Arn Menconi. All Eagle County voters will vote for all the seats, regardless of where they live.The questions will cover local election issues. This weeks question pertains to housing in the county. The current board of county commissioners have made workforce housing a top priority of the county. They have formed a housing authority, passed housing guidelines that require developers to build affordable housing with their projects, and invested with a private developer to build Stratton Flats, a new workforce housing neighborhood in Gypsum.Q: What do you feel are the countys greatest challenges in terms of housing, and what specifically as county commissioner would you do about it?
In a word: Affordability. Seventy-six percent of residents in the countys quality of life survey agree that (housing affordability) is a major problem.Eagle County is a world-class resort. Naturally, world-class resorts have world-class service. If we drive our workforce out of the valley because of spiraling housing costs, we will lose our community and begin a relentless slide into mediocrity.The economics are easy. Big homes equal high profit. Smaller homes equal low profit. Selective incentives and lower permit fees will never offset this basic reality.Because of this, it is totally appropriate for Eagle County to lead the way with a variety of unique, innovative and collaborative solutions. We need a full spectrum of affordable housing options seasonal rentals, long-term rentals, for-sale condos and houses. Eagle County should not do this alone. We need to share the burden by forming partnerships with developers, employers and our towns.
Taxes and personal property rights are often abused when the county unequally applies prohibitive, punitive housing restrictions on private developers. The commissioners then say, Private enterprise doesnt work in Eagle County.Government should creatively facilitate or referee the development of obtainable housing not compete with it then get out of the way. The county should only build housing for county employees.The commissioners raised taxes 38 percent to develop housing. They inflict price controls that take away the future American dream from young families who purchase a welfare home, possibly locking them into government housing dependency forever.In Stratton Flats, the county gave an unsecured loan of $4.5 million taxpayer dollars to the developer, becoming an at-risk equity investor, without voter approval.This violates the prudent man investment rule, requiring trustees to use prudence when managing other peoples (tax) money.
Eagle County is an extremely desirable real estate market. We attract the best teachers, nurses and first responders in the country, but lose them because of the daunting cost of housing.Eagle County must be proactive to give a fighting chance to these community builders. Caring for them is not a handout its a prudent way to anchor our world-class resort, more than relying on foreign workers. Saying the free market will solve this local challenge is saying, Thats not my problem. When the teacher of my children, or the responder to the accident on Interstate 70 cant make ends meet because of housing, thats our problem. Eagle County must pursue creative partnerships to solve these issues, especially purchasing land so we can master-plan projects that fit within the community. We should also focus our resources closer to where the jobs are.Most leaders see this as a problem I see it as an opportunity. How intelligently we govern ourselves locally on this issue will be our legacy. Saying we stayed within the box and shrugged our shoulders will be a poor excuse.
The biggest challenge is to achieve balance in the continuum of housing. We have to work cooperatively with private enterprise, not against or in competition with it, to create common-sense solutions.At present, the county has failed to actively engage our local willing, bright and creative developers to help us solve this issue. Once in office, I will immediately initiate the following plan in cooperation with a panel from our development community.1. Finalize and codify our countywide master plan that grants developers, as a use by right, the ability to build workforce housing. 2. Enact true incentives that encourage developers to build workforce housing.3. More details of my affordable housing plan will be explained as points 9and 10 of my 10-point plan for restoring trust and building community. The 10-point plan is available on my Web site, http://www.electdebbiebuckley.com.