Old problem, new solutions?
Housing may be the Vail Valley’s oldest problem. That problem right now may be as bad, or worse, than it’s ever been.
If you aren’t buying a second home, you know exactly how hard it is right now to buy or rent a place. Rentals are particularly tricky, especially since the easy-money allure of internet vacation rentals has taken a number of units out of the long-term rental pool.
The bad news is there’s no real relief for the problem in the immediate future. The good news is that story might be different three or five years down the road.
There’s a lot of talk — between Vail, Avon and Eagle County — about collaborating on projects. Talking is a good start, but taking action is going to require tackling the valley’s second-oldest problem: how to pay for badly-needed housing.
The Eagle County Commissioners may put a sales tax dedicated to housing on the fall ballot. Vail is also taking the first, tentative steps toward finding a permanent source to fund housing.
A tax increase is always a tough sell. This fall would be no different. Eagle County Schools is moving forward with a significant tax increase proposal, and that idea is going to spark a lot of discussion.
On the other hand, Summit County has been able to do a lot with a relatively small sales tax devoted to housing and communities that seem willing to cooperate.
That seems like a good model to study.
There’s also the matter of participation from the private sector. It’s hard to ask businesses for help, given that owners already have a multitude of growing costs to cover, from insurance to rising taxes in the state’s wildly-inequitable method of property tax assessment. But businesses must participate in some way.
The third-oldest question regarding housing is where to put it and whether to build rentals or for-sale units.
Rentals seem a good place to start, from places for seasonal workers to hang their jackets to places like Vail’s new Lions Ridge units, which are aimed at long-term residents who aren’t yet ready to buy.
As for location (location, location), it’s pretty clear that there isn’t much available land in Vail. That’s going to force town officials to look out of town, whether to U.S. Forest Service property at Dowd Junction, Colorado Land Board property in Eagle-Vail — near the Homestake Peak school — or somewhere else.
Wherever the land for housing might be, it should be as close as possible to the resort areas where people work.
There’s no doubt our valley has again fallen way behind the needs of a growing population. But there are signs that a serious effort is underway.
Supply is unlikely to ever catch demand in this decades-old dance. But serious discussion needs to become serious action sooner than later.
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