Vail Daily letter: ‘Yes’ on housing tax
September 7, 2016
County Commissioner Jill Ryan's op-ed in the Daily last week was the most succinct analysis of why Eagle County is unaffordable for locals that I have read. The triple whammy she describes of cost of housing requiring at least 30 percent of income, plus day care's average cost of $13,000 per year, plus medical insurance premiums which are among the highest in the country, makes it beyond sacrifice and simply impossible for a large proportion of our workforce to live here, whether renting or owning, unless independently wealthy or among those first arriving here in the '80s or earlier. Lack of affordable housing is the problem most residents rate as No. 1 in surveys.
Because of this worsening situation, over the years, Vail and the county (I can't speak to other local jurisdictions) have sought and implemented various solutions to part of the need for workforce housing. These have included Miller Ranch in Edwards, in Vail purchase of deed restrictions decades ago at Pitkin Creek and continuing for other such units, a program managed by the Vail Housing Authority and director of housing, also among others Vail Commons, the town of Vail and Eagle River Water District townhomes on Red Sandstone, and the recently begun development for many units on the Chamonix parcel owned by Vail. The proposed expansion of the housing program under review currently by Vail officials is the logical next step to get ahead of the need curve and curb workforce migration out of the valley. My purpose here is not to argue merits of the specific new proposal to town of Vail, of which I know too little yet, but to support the need for such new thinking regarding the problem. A sustainable community does not squeeze out its workforce.
The Sept. 6 column by Richard Carnes entitled "Local government has no business being in the housing business" is simply nonsensical and not up to Mr. Carnes' usual standards for relevance. Vail, and Eagle County, are already knee deep in the housing business, and will continue to be if we want essential employees such as police, firemen, Eagle River Water and Sanitation District folk who can shut off broken water mains, teachers, and, yes, perhaps a few medical personnel who can handle emergency services to live in our communities and not 30-50 miles away. I pray that local governments will continue efforts to be proactive for affordable workforce housing. And I wholeheartedly endorse Eagle County's proposed very modest tax increase to support these efforts.
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