Vail Daily column: A look at affordable workforce housing in Eagle County | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: A look at affordable workforce housing in Eagle County

Our community faces any number of challenges to remain vibrant and economically resilient in the years to come. None of these challenges looms as large as our lack of affordable workforce housing.

Vail Valley Partnership and Vail Symposium invite you to join us at our fourth Vail Valley Business Forum program of the year on Nov. 1 from 8 to 10 a.m. at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards as we explore workforce housing in Eagle County.

The Vail Valley Business Forum program on Nov. 1 will provide a real estate market update as well as an overview of Eagle County's affordable housing stock. This will be followed by a panel discussion with both public and private sector housing and real estate experts from throughout the valley.

Forum Panelists

Panelists include Jill Klosterman, Eagle County housing director; Alan Nazzaro, town of Vail housing manager; Julie Bergsten, Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate vice president; Elyse Howard, Habitat for Humanity development director; and Gerry Flynn, Polar Star Properties.

This expert panel will cover a variety of topics including our current inventory of workforce housing, a recap of our housing needs assessment, the housing strategic plan for the town of Vail, a market update on real estate trends, and more. The program also includes time for questions and answers from the audience — allowing attendees to ask local experts for their thoughts on feedback on affordable workforce housing.

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We know Eagle County faces a gap in the availability of ownership and rental housing that is affordable for locals. Residents are burdened by high housing payments. Employees are forced to commute long distances. According to the annual Vail Valley Partnership workforce survey, employers believe that the availability of workforce housing is a critical or major problem in Eagle County. The Eagle County Housing Assessment shows a shortfall of 4,500 units to meet current needs.

How to effectively provide and sustain an adequate supply of affordable housing for our growing workforce has been an ongoing challenge and issue facing our community for years. It is common in resort communities to suffer a chronic shortfall of affordable housing, negatively impacting a multitude of issues. Regardless of political leanings we tend to agree that affordable housing is a very high priority (evidenced by 95 percent recognition of workforce housing as a community problem in a recent phone poll), yet we have failed to effectively address the problem.

Addressing Issue is Essential

We also know workforce and affordable housing has long been an issue in Eagle County. The difference today is the demographic data clearly shows an increased need for more affordable housing options for the current and future Eagle County workforce. Addressing our affordable housing issue is essential to the continued success and growth of our business community across industry sectors.

In the current Eagle County housing market (2015 full year sales data), the median sales price has risen to $575,000, close to pre recession levels. In this four-year time period from 2012 to 2016, the area median income (AMI) level has risen 4 percent while the median sales price of a home in Eagle County has risen 35 percent. When we look at the current affordability gap we see a $234,310 gap for that 100 percent AMI family, and even at 140 percent AMI, there is still a $97,600 gap. These new affordability gap numbers point to the increased need for more affordable housing options for the current and future Eagle County workforce.

Currently and anecdotally, units that have been long-term workforce rentals are being removed from that market as they are converted into short-term rentals. This has the potential to grow both catch-up and keep-up needs for workforce housing.

Please join us on Nov. 1 at Colorado Mountain College to get an overview of our current real estate market and our workforce housing stock and needs. Public tickets are $35; tickets for VVP members and Vail Symposium supporters are $25. RSVP at http://vailsymposium.org/th_event/look-workforce-housing-eagle-county/. We hope to see you there to discuss this important community topic.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.