Vail Daily editorial: ‘No’ on 1A
No issue has been more prominent than housing this election cycle. The real estate market has strengthened, increasing home prices; jobs have returned, creating more demand for housing; and Airbnb has cut into long-term rental housing inventory. Few free-market, attainable homes — homes that a police officer, nurse or teacher can afford — have been built since the economic recovery began several years ago.
The result is a housing crunch that seems to return again and again to our community.
Meanwhile, the costs of health care continue to rise, and child care remains difficult to find. Heck, you’ll even have to pay to park at Beaver Creek this year. It seems to get harder and harder each year to get by as a local resident.
And housing is the biggest hurdle for local workers. The proposed 0.3 percent sales tax is a well-meaning proposal to buy land, build worker housing, buy deed restrictions and provide down-payment assistance to ease this ever-present problem. It would raise some $5.4 million per year, and similar taxes exist in Summit County and Aspen.
But with more worthy tax requests on the ballot this year — in particular the School District’s rather large request for tax increases to cover building improvements, provide teacher raises and restore programs — we cannot recommend the housing proposal in this election.
The 1A plan is light on details, and significant projects have yet to be identified in concrete terms. An oversight committee would direct the money, but, as of now, the planned uses of these funds are vague.
Furthermore, the effect of the town of Vail’s recent proposal to spend up to $5 million per year on housing for the next 10 years has not been fully realized. Other towns should follow Vail’s lead and redouble commitments to creating housing for local workers. (The combined $5.6 million Avon spent on the Main Street walkway and the Nottingham stage could have put a dent in the problem.)
The county and towns should also consider ways to make developers want to build more free-market, attainable housing. Consider allowing increased density and removing onerous requirements. They also, in large part, missed opportunities to invest in housing in the wake of the economic downturn.
Opportunities for public-private partnerships exist. Vail Resorts has committed $30 million to partnerships in its resort communities. We haven’t heard any local politicians suggest an idea for tapping into those promised funds.
In that vein, more employers must step up to help solve the problem. Some of the valley’s employers already have programs of their own. Holy Cross Energy, the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, the Sonnenalp, Sweet Basil and others wholeheartedly work to help put roofs above the heads of their employees.
Wages haven’t kept up with housing prices, and, considering the nature of our valley, they never will. However, employers need to make a better effort to pay employees closer to what it takes to get by here — rather than relying on government to step in to provide housing for their employees. To that point, we are recommending raises for teachers to allow them to more easily afford life in this valley. Other employers should do the same. We see large employers in the valley reporting significant profits; workers should see more commitment to wage increases that help them to live here.
A housing tax one day may make sense for this valley, as this problem won’t be going away. However, this proposal needs more specifics; governments should refine and improve their current housing programs and regulations; and employers should work to increase wages. A tax proposal can wait until we see progress on those fronts.