Our View: When it comes to wages and housing, Eagle County is falling behind (editorial)
August 29, 2018
You may have read this week that pay in Eagle County is lagging behind statewide wages, as well as wages in the region. In the 10 counties that belong to the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, Eagle County was fifth in the average annual wage, at $47,736.
Among resort counties in the region, Eagle County's annual average wage is lower than that in Pitkin County by nearly $7,700 per year. On the other hand, Eagle County's average annual wage is higher than those in Routt, Summit and Grand counties — other areas where there are a lot of people working in lower-wage service jobs.
Add into the regional wage data the fact that the Aspen Skiing Co. this week announced its minimum wage will increase $1.50 per hour, to $13.50, for the coming ski season.
In comparison, Vail Resorts in March announced its minimum wage would increase from $11 to $12.25 per hour.
Granting that Vail Resorts' holdings are more far-flung, there's still a nagging feeling that Eagle County is already behind and falling farther back as time goes on.
That's particularly true when it comes to housing. The town of Vail has made strides in the past few years with the Chamonix townhomes and the town's ambitious InDeed program. That program's goal is to add 1,000 deed-restricted units to the town's inventory by 2027. Some of those units will be new construction, but most will be through deed-restriction purchases aimed at keeping for-sale units affordable to residents.
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Meanwhile, the rest of the valley's municipalities haven't done much, particularly when it comes to the deed-restricted, for-sale housing that's such an essential part of retaining our workforce.
Miller Ranch was the last big county project, and that was in the 1990s.
Other towns in the county have some affordable or deed-restriction programs. Again, though, there simply isn't much being done by local governments.
Meanwhile, Summit County has a sales tax dedicated to building housing, and hundreds of units of both rental and for-sale housing have been built over the past decade.
Pitkin County has long had a deed-restricted housing program, also with its own funding source.
Eagle County in 2016 asked voters for a similar funding source, but that proposal was rejected, and was seen by many as too imprecise.
Whether the issue is wages, housing or both, our county has a lot of thinking to do and a lot of work to do. There are no easy answers, but the private sector, local governments and, ultimately, voters all have roles to play in solving our valley's long-running puzzle.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Krista Driscoll, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart and Business Editor Scott Miller.
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