Eagle County Housing Task Force: Community discusses workforce housing at public meeting (column)
The new Eagle County Housing Task Force held its first open house to discuss workforce housing opportunities on Monday, Dec. 4. Task force co-chairs Michael Hazard and Bobby Lipnick moderated the sessions. Vail Community Development Department Director George Ruther discussed the importance of a paradigm change for workforce housing. He stressed the importance of developing a critical path that creates trust and understanding for applicants, government staff and elected officials.
The primary purpose of the public forum was to hear from citizens regarding their concerns, questions and suggestions. The task force used Vail Resorts’ potential East Vail project — a recently rezoned parcel on the north side of the East Vail Interstate 70 interchange — to discuss architecture, unit mix and community vision. The task force strongly believes the public’s input is critical and must be heard in the early stage of the development process.
Attendees included town of Vail employees, residents, business owners, developers and elected officials. Some raised concerns about over-building, maintaining a high-quality community and living next to seasonal workers who are noisy at night. Though most people understand the severe shortage of workforce housing, many said “not in my back yard,” adding there are much better places for workforce housing. There was not much opposition to employee/affordable housing but rather strong suggestions regarding its location.
Business owners stressed creating more affordable housing for young families and keeping Vail a fun, desirable place to live from an employee perspective. We must recreate an environment where employees can rent or purchase a home at an affordable price.
Who pays for this new workforce housing? While a minority felt that businesses in Eagle County should pay for the new housing by raising wages or partnering with a developer, most felt the government should pay through taxation. There was widespread agreement that property values have risen disproportionally to salaries in the valley, leading to the lack of affordable housing.
Some attendees who have previously been vocal about their opposition to the rezoning proposal of Vail Resort’s East Vail property expressed a desire and willingness to participate in the process of development in order to achieve the best product for all. The primary purpose of task force-sponsored public forums is to engage the entire community in what housing should be in our community in the future. On behalf of the entire task force we encourage each one of you to attend future forums in order to make a difference in your community.
Bobby Lipnick, M.D., MBA, and Michael Hazard, AIA, are co-chairs of the Eagle County Housing Task Force.