Vail Daily column: Housing: A need, not a want
As I contemplate a complex issue with many layers, I find it helpful to start with the basics. One of my favorite community service endeavors is joining classrooms in our local community and presenting Junior Achievement curriculums. In the first grade, they offer a six week program called Junior Achievement Our Families that introduces the kids to basic household decisions. The first session asks the kids to differentiate between needs and wants. We present flash cards with pictures of various objects such as skis, a bike, a house/apartment, a board game, a sweater, a basketball, a loaf of bread and so on. At the end of the exercise, the kids all agree our basic needs as humans are food, clothing and shelter. All of the other items are wants which we pursue after we’ve satisfied our three basic needs for survival.
Our community has been presented with a unique challenge related to one of these needs — a shortage of affordable housing. This isn’t a new challenge, but one which has entered the forefront of conversations again for a variety of reasons. At the center of this discussion is that while housing in general is in short supply, affordable options are in even shorter supply. The future of the Vail Valley as a coveted tourism destination hinges on our ability to provide housing options to both the management level and front-line employees who deliver the guest experience day in and day out.
I have observed a variety of stakeholders beginning to contribute to the solutions instead of only discussing the problem. Private developers have proposed apartment projects throughout the valley with occupancy restricted to residents who work in Eagle County at least 30 hours per week. The town of Vail has subsidized the proposed Chamonix project and will allow 32 families the opportunity to own a home within the town of Vail.
These are families who would not otherwise be able to afford the fair market prices of a comparable property. Many long-term, established employers have purchased condos for the purpose of providing housing for their staff. Neighbors have evaluated proposed projects with a greater focus on the community impact than on their specific circumstances.
With that said, there is still a lot of work, planning and coordination ahead of us. Our Chamber partners at the Vail Valley Partnership have taken an important step in forming the Workforce Housing Coalition to help guide these issues. Coalition participants include representatives from the various municipalities, developers, builders, lenders and residents. As a local banker, I know our community banks support the spirit of the Community Reinvestment Act enacted by Congress in 1977 to encourage depository institutions to help meet the credit needs of the communities in which we operate. We plan to be active in providing construction financing and mortgage loan programs which contribute to our housing solutions.
Here’s to our community and a prosperous future for the Vail Valley.
If you want to stay informed or want to hear more about all of the exciting events and great things happening in the Vail Valley this season, then please check in with the Vail Chamber and Business Association. If you are not already receiving our weekly e-newsletter, then email us at info@vail chamber.org. If you are interested in finding out more about the VCBA and what we have to offer businesses in Vail, then call 970-477-0075. Our office is located on the top level of the Vail Transportation Center, so please stop in and say hello.
Dave Portman is the executive vice president-Eagle County of First Bank. He is a board member of the Vail Chamber and Business Association.
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