Our View: Sonnenalp Resort setting a great example with employee housing (editorial)
July 31, 2018
Kudos are due to the Faessler family and Sonnenalp for persisting in the effort to build the new, and much larger, Solar Vail apartments in Vail.
The family this week kicked off an effort that took more than a decade — demolishing the existing 1976-vintage, 24-unit structure and replacing it with a new, 65-unit building. That building is entirely deed restricted, which means it can't be used for anything other than workforce housing.
The project required a boost from the town of Vail, which purchased deed restrictions on the property for just more than $4.2 million. Still, that boost represents only about 20 percent of the project budget.
The Sonnenalp has long provided housing for its employees. People who lived in Solar Vail — mostly seasonal workers — will be moved to other Sonnenalp-owned units in East Vail, West Vail and elsewhere in the valley.
The Sonnenalp isn't alone in having rooms to rent to its employees. Vail Resorts controls a good bit of housing in the valley, and Holy Cross Energy and the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District also have housing for employees to either buy or rent.
But those and other employers' programs are the exception in our valley. That needs to change.
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Workforce housing is more than just a place for employees to sleep. Done right, it's also a way to keep employees around for more than just a season or two.
Long-tenured, satisfied employees are more important than ever these days. As our valley's summer tourist season extends farther into fall and earlier into late spring, it's crucial to keep knowledgable, dedicated employees on the job. Housing stability can be big part of keeping valued staff members around. People who have to move frequently — unless they want to — would seem to be more likely to move out of the valley instead of spending weeks, or months, of their off-work hours trying to find a new place to live.
Not every business can afford to build housing for its workers. But more businesses should participate in workforce housing projects, either as minority partners or, at least, agreeing to master-lease units in projects before construction begins.
Local government does, and should, participate in workforce housing efforts. But the private sector can, and should, do more, too.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Krista Driscoll and Business Editor Scott Miller.
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