Vail Daily editorial: The endless story | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily editorial: The endless story

the Vail Daily Editorial Board

There are plenty of encouraging signs as the Vail Valley continues to emerge from the national economic slump that struck here full force in 2009. Of course, the return of our economic vitality also comes with the return of an age-old problem: housing.

As anyone new to the valley or between leases will quickly attest, it's damnably hard to find a place to rent. And, once again, the crunch is being felt from Gypsum to East Vail. The for-sale market is also tight, especially in the less-than-$500,000 end of the market where many of us swim.

During the go-go era of 2006 or so, an international group called the Urban Land Institute — made up of land planners, architects and others — held a symposium in Vail that determined the valley was at that moment short of workforce housing to the tune of 2,500 units. Then the economy went to pieces, foreclosures skyrocketed the way prices did just a few years earlier, and the valley for the first time in 30 years or so had a housing glut.

The downturn would have been a great time to acquire property to build and foreclosed homes to put into the mostly government-managed workforce housing pool. But with tax receipts diving along with property values, there was no public money available.

Needless to say the glut didn't last long. Now we're back to a shortage severe enough that Eagle County Commissioner Jill Ryan told the audience at Thursday's Vail Valley Business Forum that the valley could be 9,000 units short of a healthy market as soon as 2020.

Which revives the age-old question: What are we going to do?

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While the free market is usually the best solution to economic problems, that's rarely been true when it comes to workforce housing. That means government has to help.

Harry Frampton, former boss at Beaver Creek, one of the named partners in the valley's biggest real estate company and part of the "West" in East West Partners, knows a thing or two about development and public/private partnerships. Frampton believes the old STOLport site in Avon is big enough for 1,000 to 1,500 units, close to shopping and transit.

If an agreement could be forged with property owner Magnus Lindholm, that project alone could take fill a big part of our housing hole.

Other options could include land in Eagle-Vail owned by the State Land Board. The Dowd Junction offices of the Holy Cross National Forest could also provide another transit-friendly site for housing.

Other options — as many as possible in the eastern half of the valley — need to be explored.

There will never be easy answers to our valley's chronic housing crunch, but it's past time to redouble public and private efforts to do as much as possible.