Romer: The momentum on housing is real
Housing affordability continues to be a struggle across the U.S. and Canada. At the end of 2022, median-priced single-family homes and condos are less affordable in 99% of U.S. counties when compared to historical averages.
The supply of affordable housing continues to be strained, and 60% of Americans said they’re very concerned about the cost of housing. We know these numbers are even higher in Eagle County and across the mountain region.
It is commonly accepted that attainable and affordable housing remains the biggest barrier to ensuring the mountain region can support affordable, healthy, equitable, accessible, resilient, economically vital, and vibrant communities.
The good news? We have momentum — real, tangible momentum — on the housing front. This momentum is at both a state and local level, creating even more opportunities to make a meaningful impact to maintain a sustainable community.
Gov. Jared Polis emphasized the urgency of the issue in his State of the State address, as his first topic of discussion was remedying Colorado’s housing shortage. As a long-time, top public policy priority of the Partnership, we were glad to hear the governor is not taking the housing crisis lightly. The affordability gap numbers in Eagle County point to the increased need for more affordable housing options for the current and future Eagle County workforce, and state-wide recognition and support will help us reduce the gap.
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Polis emphasized a statewide housing approach: “This is not just a local problem. Since issues like transportation, water, energy and more inherently cross jurisdictional boundaries, it becomes a statewide problem that impacts all of us.” Voters around the state seem to agree with the governor because Colorado passed Proposition 123 last November. This will dedicate $300 million annually to workforce housing around the state.
Our elected officials are working to address the issue; Sen. Dylan Roberts, along with Rep. Meghan Lukens, have sponsored SB23-001, Authority of Public-private Collaboration Unit for Housing. This bill concerns additional functions of the public-private collaboration unit for public projects that provide housing. The bill will update the Public-Private Partnership’s authority over workforce housing projects and provide funding to start the process on the State Land Board/Dowd Junction housing project.
Our local districts and nonprofits are working to address the issue. Eagle County School District is making progress on housing, as outlined by Superintendent Phil Qualman in a recent Daily column. It’s great to see innovative projects such as the district’s Edwards Housing Project (a new 37-unit apartment building) and innovative partnership with Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley come to fruition. Next door to the Battle Mountain housing site, Colorado Mountain College is also adding housing.
The private sector is working to address the issue; Vail Health is adding Fox Hollow to its housing inventory, nearly doubling its available workforce housing. Hockett Gulch and Haymeadow are moving forward in Eagle, as is Sienna Lake in Gypsum. These projects combined will add hundreds of units to our inventory and help ease our housing crunch.
Our local governments are also actively engaged. The town of Vail is adding 70 new units at the Residences at Main Vail. Eagle County is doubling the housing impact at the Colorado Mountain College site by adding a second building. Avon’s Mi Casa and Vail’s InDEED programs are increasing our deed-restricted housing inventory, as are Eagle County’s bold housing moves.
Attainable, accessible, and affordable housing is a foundational component of a healthy, sustainable community. We have a long way to go to address our housing issues, but we are finally making progress.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com.