Vail Daily letter: ‘Yes’ on 1A
Voters can help ensure our continued community success by voting “yes” on 1A. 1A asks voters to approve a small three-10th of a cent sales tax on the fall ballot. Three cents on a $10 purchase is a small price to pay to ensure our community remains sustainable into the future; if we don’t address our workforce housing in a meaningful way, a sustainable future might just be a pipe dream.
Tax opponents might claim hyperbole. After all, we have survived the past 50 years without any tax to support our workforce housing. They might claim that they purchased their home without any government assistance, and so should everyone else or that our government shouldn’t be involved in housing programs.
The fact is, we are at a critical juncture in our communities’ history and much like the “choose your own adventure” novels of my childhood, we have the ability to choose what type of community we want to be moving forward. Consider the “community conversations” hosted by the Board of County Commissioners earlier this year where residents expressed overwhelming support that the community should and can be doing more to help find solutions to affordable workforce housing. Also consider our annual workforce study, where 69 percent of respondents indicated the lack of workforce housing was detrimental to their business growth due to the inability to attract and retain employees.
Local government is already involved in a variety of housing programs ranging from ownership of Lake Creek Village and management of the Valley Home Store to manage deed restricted units at Miller Ranch. The county is also involved in down-payment assistance programs and financial contributions to assist the Seniors on Broadway Apartments and the Castle Peak Senior Care Community. Each of these meets a clear community need and is a viable and important role for government to fulfill. Local towns including Vail are also actively involved in housing.
The fact is, the need for workforce housing has never been greater. Forty-eight percent of Eagle County households spend more than 30 percent of their gross monthly income on housing (source: Habitat for Humanity).
Our population has grown 8.1 percent since 2007 and our workforce has grown 6.4 percent during this same time. Employment has grown 6 percent and our unemployment rate in 2015 was 3.1 percent. During this same time frame (2007-2015), our housing needs have increased 81 percent — from a catch-up need of 4,446 housing units in 2015 to a keep pace need of 8,060 housing units for a total housing need of 11,960 units by 2025. This is a combination of housing demand from job growth and housing demand from replacement of retirees in our workforce. (Source: Eagle County Housing Needs Assessment)
The median sales price in Eagle County has risen to $575,000. In the four-year time period from 2012 to 2016, the area median income level has risen 4 percent ($79,600 for a family of three) while the median sales price of a home in Eagle County has risen 35 percent. When we look at the current affordability gap we see a $234,310 gap for that 100 percent area median income family, and even at 140 percent of area median income ($111,440 for a family of three), there is still a $97,600 gap. These new affordability gap numbers point to the increased need for more affordable housing options for the current and future Eagle County workforce.
Additionally, long-term residential rental inventory is being pressured by never before by the “Airbnb effect” — a shift from owners utilizing their rental units on the short-term market rather than for long-term rentals. Anecdotally, most business owners and managers don’t hesitate to share stories about employees who have been forced to move out of long-term living situations as owners make the switch to short-term leasing their rental properties.
Exasperating the issue is the fact that in 2010 the 65-plus population in Eagle County accounted for just 6 percent of the total population. And by 2025, the 65-plus population is forecast to rise to 17 percent (source: Colorado Demographer’s Office). This creates pressure on the workforce housing units, as current workers retire, their housing units change in status from units that house workers to units that do not house workers (assuming the retirees stay in their homes). The new employees who fill the jobs vacated by retired workers create a demand for new housing units.
Help keep locals local. Vote “yes” on 1A when your ballot arrives later this month, or when you go to the polls next month. Affordable workforce housing is a community need, and three cents on every $10 is a pittance to pay for a sustainable community.
President and CEO, Vail Valley Partnership