Romer: Yes on housing measures, yes to community
Vail Valley Partnership’s board of governors has identified affordable housing as our No. 1 strategic priority area. As locals know, Eagle County’s cost of living is higher than many other places.
To no one’s surprise, housing is the key element pushing Eagle County’s overall cost of living above the U.S. average. The Council for Community and Economic Research produces an annual County Cost of Living Index that serves as a measure of the relative cost of living between different locations across the county.
Eagle County’s cost of living indexes at 176.30 against a nationwide average of 100. In the CCLI, a number above 100 is more expensive than the U.S. average, and a number below 100 is less expensive than the U.S. average. Housing costs in Eagle County, however, are indexed at 314 (396 in Vail), while most other consumer goods and services in the county fall slightly above or below the U.S. average, making housing the primary driver elevating local living expenses.
Simply stated, we face a gap in the availability of ownership and rental housing that is affordable for residents. Residents are burdened by high housing payments and a lack of accessible options for rental or purchase. Employees are forced to commute long distances.
According to the annual workforce survey, both employers and employees believe that the availability of workforce housing is a critical or major problem in Eagle County. The Eagle County Housing Assessment shows a shortfall of 4,500 units to meet current needs.
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Workforce and affordable housing has long been an issue in Eagle County. The difference today is the demographic data clearly shows an increased need for more affordable housing options for the current and future Eagle County workforce. Addressing our affordable housing issue is essential to the continued success and growth of our business community across industry sectors.
But you know this. The data reinforces what residents know: housing our locals is our top priority. Vail Valley Partnership’s board of governors is proud to endorse the town of Vail’s proposed 0.5% sales tax question and the town of Avon’s proposed 2% short-term lodging tax question on the November ballot.
Vail’s Ballot Issue 2A would authorize a half-cent increase to the town’s existing sales tax rate — excluding food for home consumption — to fund housing initiatives, housing developments, and housing programs. The town of Vail has a track record of building meaningful housing programs (Vail InDEED) and investing in workforce housing (Lions Ridge, Residences at Main Vail). We support this effort as it will make a meaningful impact on workforce housing efforts in the Town and as a bonus would free up money in the general fund to pay for other municipal priorities. Community surveys continue to show housing as a top issue in both Vail and Eagle County and this initiative will provide meaningful and dedicated funding to address community housing efforts.
Avon’s sales tax on short-term lodging rentals will help fund community housing including “the acquisition of land for housing, construction of housing, an extension of public infrastructure to serve community housing development, purchase of deed restrictions, down payment assistance programs, partnerships with public and private entities to develop community housing, and related costs for administration, design, legal and consulting.” Avon has also shown a commitment to funding housing through the MiCasa deed restriction program, and this will make a meaningful impact to help address the workforce housing issue in Avon.
We encourage voters in Vail and Avon to vote yes for the community by voting yes for housing.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com.