Vail Daily column: Housing’s perfect storm
The following is an excerpt from a report by the Vail Homeowners Association board of directors. The association keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the Vail community. The electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com.
The availability of sufficient workforce housing has been a perennial problem in the Vail Valley, but this past year it reached a critical mass. It was the No. 1 concern in the recent town survey as business owners are saying they are working longer hours as they struggle to offset a shortage of employees; some are even giving serious consideration to closing up shop and leaving the area. And on the other side of the cash register, there are growing complaints about the availability of service in the businesses. In some ways, we are fast approaching a perfect storm.
Unfortunately, action has not yet matched the rhetoric. Now, however, both the town of Vail and Eagle County are swinging into action, albeit in not the most effective or responsible way. Both entities are considering “trust us” tax increases for housing on the November ballot. Eagle County is considering a 0.3 percent sales tax increase; the town is considering an unspecified property tax increase to create a permanent housing fund. Neither have any specific plans for how to spend the money and no cost projections to give the voters. Nor is any campaign apparatus in place for either venture. This comes at a time when the school board already has announced it will seek a two-pronged property tax increase.
Two other housing related developments are circulating in the town. Both have a potential impact on some or all homeowners. The first involves a new municipal court enforceable authority for the Vail Fire Department that would override the town’s 40-year commitment to encourage tree planting and native ground cover to prevent erosion. Recently the Town Council approved the first step of fire officials’ request that could lead to the repeal of some of the design approaches used to screen development and meld it with the natural landscape of the surrounding forest. The fire department can now require the removal of living trees at the expense of homeowners that were required to be installed by the town to comply with its design review approval.
The other involves consideration of new housing policies for the town. The recent growth in rent-by-owner and other similar new ways for owners to realize additional income from their homes has helped to exacerbate the housing shortage. In another effort to expand workforce housing, the town of Vail is considering taking regulatory steps to set local housing policies. Discussions, to date, indicate that the regulations may involve banning rental-by-owner opportunities and other similar occupancy and use restrictions. Such policies could easily become confiscatory and amount to social engineering. The Vail Homeowners Association will be monitoring these proposals as they emerge and will report as soon as concrete information is available.
The Vail Homeowners Association board is Gail Ellis, president; Judith Berkowitz, secretary; Rob Ford, treasurer; and directors Jamie Duke, John Gorsuch, John Lohre, Andres Nevares, Trygve Myhren, Larry Stewart and Doug Tansill.