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Eagle County Housing Task Force: Two years later, a progress report

Bobby Lipnick
Special to the Daily

Two years after we formed, the Eagle County Housing Task Force continues to explore new ways to create healthy housing. Toward the end of last year, we invited Emma Sloan and Faviola Alderete, employees of the Eagle County Public Health Department, to discuss a two-year $800,000 grant received from the state to study healthy housing. The task force is now working with the public health team to develop community-wide synergies.

Approximately 17.6 million Americans (5 percent of the United States population) spend more than 50 percent of their annual income on housing costs diverting dollars away from other priorities such as healthy food, medical care and/or educational opportunities. A household that spends more than 30 percent of its annual income on housing, which includes utilities and property taxes, is cost-burdened, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The intent of the 30 percent standard is to ensure households have enough money to pay for other essentials.

The average Colorado home price increased 77 percent in the past decade, but the state’s median income went up just 4.5 percent. One in seven families in Colorado spend more than half of their annual income on housing. The effects on health may be most apparent for those who have no home. People who experience chronic homelessness live 30 years less, on average, than other Americans.

Across Colorado, an estimated 11,000 people do not have a place to live. Home quality impacts our health: lead paint, radon, pests, and rodents can make people sick. Overcrowding due to high costs strains residents and can jeopardize their health.

In Eagle County, 22 percent of all households are cost-burdened, and for households earning under 60 percent of the area median income, that number increases to 64 percent. These families are denied the personal and economic stability that safe, decent and affordable housing provides. In Eagle County, we face scarcity in the supply of affordable rental and for-sale homes for our workforce. Today there is a shortage of 2,780 units and by 2025 that deficit will grow to 5,900 units.

Eagle County has grown in population from 52,064 to 60,579 this decade. The average Eagle County Housing cost burden is 46.5 percent versus the state average of 40 percent. The median household income in Eagle County is $76,661 versus the state average of $61,324.

The ECOHTF is advocating for quality, locals’ housing that we can all be proud to rent or own. We want our greater community to refer to its homes as safe, secure, healthy and happy places. Without affordable, quality and stable housing, it’s nearly impossible to achieve good health. Home is the foundation for broader mental and physical well-being. 

The ECOHTF was formed by Bobby Lipnick and Michael Hazard, co-chairs of the all-volunteer group, to advocate for workforce housing throughout Eagle County. The task force exists to inform, facilitate and advocate for the responsible creation of a diverse supply of local, resident-occupied homes consistent with the adopted visions and goals for housing within unincorporated areas of the Eagle River Valley and partner communities of Avon, Eagle, Gypsum, Minturn, Red Cliff and Vail. The task force is a diverse team of healthy housing advocates dedicated to helping to realize each community’s vision for housing. Members include representation from the public, private and nonprofit sectors with demonstrated commitment, knowledge and experience in real estate development, finance, architecture, land use, housing policy, economic and community development.

The ECOHTF would recommend that all who are involved in health and housing in our community consider the following creative solutions:

  • Create private-public subsidy partnerships that would allow homeowners within manufactured home parks to be able to own their land and make necessary healthy upgrades.
  • Certify health and safety workers to be a resource to advise on safe homes.
  • Encourage more thoughtful regulation of short-term rentals to bolster affordable long-term rentals and a stronger sense of neighborhood.
  • Expand the Vail InDeed program county-wide and encourage locals to stay local.
  • Grow a sustainable housing fund in and across Eagle County through private, free-market development or a tax.

The ECOHTF would encourage all citizens in Eagle County to reach out to members of the task force with your own ideas and thoughts on how to achieve more healthy, happy homes in our community.

Bobby Lipnick is a longtime Vail homeowner and a co-chair of the all-volunteer Eagle County Housing Task Force.


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