Vail Daily letter: ‘Yes’ on 1A |

Vail Daily letter: ‘Yes’ on 1A

Eagle County is proposing a 0.3 per cent increase in the county sales tax to establish a permanent source of funding for pursuing low and moderate income housing. It’s called Ballot Issue 1A.

As a mortgage lender, I talk to locals constantly who are trying to figure out how to find a place to live, and quite frankly, a huge percentage are priced out of the housing market unless they can qualify (and wait in line long enough) to buy a deed restricted home.

Currently, Miller Ranch has a waiting list of over 100 interested buyers, which likely equates to a five- to seven-year waiting list. The town of Vail has so many interested and well qualified buyers that a lottery is held to even get a place in line. While there are new projects both public and private coming on line in the next 12-36 months, these will likely generate 200-300 new units, which is inadequate.

Adding to this dilemma is the fact that the mobile home parks, which provide a huge percentage of the low cost housing in the valley, are aging and many of the homes face substantial repair bills to simply remain standing. And, the lot rent in those parks is very expensive and there are many other quality of life issues in these neighborhoods that should be troubling.

It would be ideal if the community could count on the private sector to solve this problem, but in the 54 years Vail has existed, there has been a near constant housing problem. Private developers are in business to make money, and their attention and efforts will go where they can make the most profits — that is simply a basic principle of business.

Surrounding counties have adopted taxes that provide a constant stream of new affordable housing (albeit the demand still outstrips supply) and for the most part these neighborhoods are solid, vibrant places for families to live and thrive. Locally we have many good examples of how government assistance can create such neighborhoods, with Vail Commons and Miller Ranch being excellent examples. I’m confident the county will spend this pool of tax dollars wisely and it will lead to hundreds of new, decent affordable housing units.

There are many other aspects to solving this problem, and among those are where will this housing be built, and that means insisting that everyone be accepting of the integration of affordable housing within every neighborhood.

I’ve often posed that if a developer doesn’t want to include at least a reasonable amount of employee housing in their development that a fair response would be to agree on the condition that they agree there will be no toilets put in any of the units, thereby eliminating the requirement for employees to clean the homeowners’ toilets.

There are several examples of employee housing being integrated with high-end developments (the Sheraton, Simba Run and the Vail Racquet Club to name a few) to prove that having a waiter or housekeeper for a neighbor is not the end of the world.

And overall it is important to our social fabric in Eagle County to make our workforce feel enfranchised and that they have a future here. I’ve always maintained that someone with a 30-year mortgage is going to work harder to keep their job and get ahead than someone with a six-month lease. Perhaps that edge will lead to higher levels of service to our guests, and more happy guests returning more often.

Vail was built on the premise “there is no comparison.” That moniker has become increasingly difficult to keep up in recent years. I believe 1A is part of the solution to polishing our image and assuring out future success as a community.

Chris Neuswanger


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