Vail Daily column: Tackling housing problems
October 14, 2016
The following is an excerpt from a report by the Vail Homeowners Association board of directors. The association keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the Vail community. The electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com.
Currently, Vail has 727 deed-restricted housing units, and up to 58 more are to be added by the Chamonix project. Those units comprise about 10 percent of Vail's existing local housing. For the most part, that housing is occupied by skilled middle class employees, and with very little vacancy, it is difficult for seasonal workers to find housing. Many have to live downvalley or even out of the valley.
Adding another 1,000 units throughout the next 10 years, when adjusted for projected growth over that period, will maintain but not increase that percentage. In other words, due to projected growth for Vail, it will take another 1,000 units of affordable housing in the next 10 years to simply maintain the status quo, and that would do nothing for the seasonal worker.
This, of course, is not uniquely a "Vail" problem; downvalley authorities have also been seeking to increase affordable housing, mainly through private-public partnership arrangements, such as Buffalo Ridge Apartments in Avon and Miller Ranch in Edwards.
Most recently, Eagle County has proposed a 20-year-long $5.4 million sales tax increase to provide for affordable housing which, if adopted, would yield a whopping $108 million over its 20-year life. That could provide the financing to make a major dent in housing needs in the county.
Unfortunately, there is scant in the ballot proposal in the way of concrete plans and only a general "for the good of the community" "trust us" description of how the money will be used. History shows that "trust us" ballot initiatives do not fare well with voters. It, therefore, remains to be seen whether this initiative will win voter approval. Regardless of the outcome, Eagle County's recognition of this issue is a positive development, one that will, hopefully, lead to more comprehensive countywide solutions.
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The newest Vail housing initiative arrived fully formed in a polished brochure and was quickly adopted by the town, but it raises more questions than there are answers. According to the plan, Vail will help fund home purchases by buying deed-restrictions on 1,000 properties, so long as the purchaser is a full-time (30 hours per week) Eagle County employee. There is no limit on the price of the home; apparently, it is assumed that the job restriction will act as a self-regulating limit. Presumably, the average price that the town will pay is $50,000 ($48.7 million divided by 1,000). Although not covered in the brochure, it has been widely reported that there will be no caps on appreciation of the property, and the property can be resold at market value (subject to the effect of the deed restriction).
It might not come as a surprise that the Vail Local Housing Authority, as the proposer of the plan, has ceded to itself the sole authority to run the program and spend the money. This is more than simply a massive spending plan. Buried in that plan is the intent to "create a Housing Overlay District that allows for increased density." It is no coincidence that the new Roost Lodge proposal to create a super-sized structure in West Vail includes middle-class housing and parking to justify increased densities; it was the Vail Local Housing Authority that is behind the proposal.
Financing is to be provided by using all of the town's Housing Fund, plus an additional $500,000 from next year's budget. For the next three years the plan calls for an appropriation of $5 million per year from the Vail revenues; i.e., from the Vail budget. Years five through 10 — an additional $30 million — are to be financed through a sales or property tax. This is considered to be a minimum plan because, according to the town, it may have "to accelerate its funding obligations in future years to remain on target."
Buried in the plan are some alarming details; such as, the intent of the Vail Local Housing Authority to create a Housing Overlay District to provide for increasing densities, a call for a Nexus study which is the legally required prerequisite to increased government intervention and/or discriminatory practices in the housing market and a plan to recalculate the fee in lieu program.
The Vail Homeowners Association board is Gail Ellis, president; Judith Berkowitz, secretary; Rob Ford, treasurer; and directors Jamie Duke, John Gorsuch, John Lohre, Andres Nevares, Trygve Myhren, Larry Stewart and Doug Tansill.