Vail Daily column: Housing at crisis point
October 13, 2016
Eagle County is an amazing place to live, work and play. I am proud to call it home and feel fortunate for the opportunity to raise my two boys here. As a family, we are spoiled by how easy it is to get outside — on skis, on bikes, on foot, in the river. We make every effort to get out and enjoy all these special activities together. This quality of life is something I never imagined growing up in a city. In addition, we are surrounded by creative, generous and resilient community members. While our population continues to grow, this is still a small town, and I have seen our community come together on countless occasions to support each other.
This quality of life comes with trade-offs. Community members are determined and always looking for creative solutions to make it work here. However, finding an affordable place to live in Eagle County has gotten harder and harder. We need almost 4,500 housing units today and nearly 12,000 by 2025 to house our workforce. There is a shortage of homes for our full-time work force and their families. By 2025, my oldest son will have graduated from high school. I often wonder what the community will look like then, and if he or his brother will be able to live in Eagle County as adults, if they choose to do so.
Affordability and availability of housing has reached a crisis point and it's tearing at the fabric of our community, causing people to move away. We are losing our creative, generous community members because they cannot find a stable, affordable place to live.
Fortunately, our county commissioners, in collaboration with nearly all the municipalities in Eagle County, have put forth a solution; a .003 cent sales tax, or three cents on every $10 purchase excluding groceries. Funds generated from this sales tax will create an affordable housing fund. This is a community issue, and it is exciting to see our leaders come together to address it.
I have seen the impacts that affordable housing can have on families and on our community through my work, during the last 11 years, with Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley. Habitat is successful because it offers families a hand up and the opportunity to provide a better life for themselves and their children. Habitat builds strength, stability and self-reliance through affordable housing. An affordable home is a strong foundation for a family, an opportunity on which they can build a better life. Strong and stable homes help build strong and stable communities. Better, affordable living conditions lead to improved health, stronger childhood development and the financial flexibility to make forward-looking choices. A decent place to live and an affordable mortgage help homeowners save more, invest in education, pursue opportunity and have more financial stability.
The affordable housing crisis cannot be solved overnight. It will take collaborative and creative solutions that address both affordable home ownership and affordable rentals to create long-term solutions for workforce housing. I believe 1A is a positive step toward the solution. Affordable workforce housing is a vital piece of infrastructure needed to support a thriving community.
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Elyse Howard is development director for Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley.
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