Vail Daily letter: 1A is a good plan
October 28, 2016
Indira Gandhi stated, "Have a bias toward action — let's see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away."
That's a near perfect quote regarding workforce housing in Eagle County. We've studied the issue enough, we recognize the community need and the inherent benefits to our business community, and there is near universal agreement (95 percent based on a recent phone study) that affordable workforce housing is a need. And it is time to have a bias toward action.
Ballot issue 1A provides an all-of-the-above approach and is a current, bird-in-the-hand solution to making something happen on the affordable housing issue. It's inherent on our community to have a take action and to take the steps needed to address this issue.
Clearly, and unmistakably, this proposed $0.03 sales tax on every $10 purchase (exempting groceries) must be used for affordable housing. It can't be diverted to other uses.
The Board of County Commissioners will determine exactly how this fund will be spent. The fact is final authority for a countywide sales tax is the elected officials; you may not like this governance model, but that is the statue. That said — it is important to note these decisions don't happen in a vacuum, as there will be a feedback from a community advisory board. This model works well for transit and open space, and ensures representative input from entities and communities throughout the county.
Critics claim there is no plan, or we need to wait for the perfect plan, or find fault with the ballot language, or (fill in the blank). We have yet to see any critics come to the table with a well thought out plan to address affordable workforce housing. Ideas — yes. Plans — no.
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Critics are assuming that voters won't research or will be easily misled with straw man arguments. We give our local voters more credit to research the issue, understand the impacts of a severe lack of workforce housing, realize there is a thoughtful plan in place, and to vote "yes" on ballot issue 1A.
Because despite the "no taxes" argument, or the "there's no plan" argument, or the "come to us every time there is an opportunity to develop a plot of land" argument, there is — in fact — a well thought out plan in place to utilize and maximize funds from 1A:
First, new construction of deed-restricted housing for owners. Miller Ranch is an example where public and private partners can make a difference. Incentives are needed for developers to build affordable units, and strategic land acquisition is required.
Second, new construction of deed restricted housing for renters. Lake Creek Village Apartments is an example where long-term leases to workforce, near jobs and transit, works. Again, public/private partnerships are needed, strategic land acquisition is required, and incentives to build affordable units can make workforce rentals work in our rural resort economy.
Third, better utilization of current stock of developed real estate. This can help improve the quality and affordability of housing in Eagle County by purchasing deed restrictions on existing property, or unit buy-downs to keep units affordable to year-round residents.
Fourth, down payment assistance loans. We can leverage dollars to make housing purchases and monthly payments more affordable to the workforce.
Don't be fooled by the "there is no plan" argument. The plan has been developed, fully vetted, and outlined with feedback and input from local municipal and special district partners, and by the county housing department (and is available at VoteYeson1A.com for those interested in knowing more).
Besides, we are in agreement with George S. Patton, who said, "A good plan executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week" and a "yes" vote on issue 1A is a good first step toward executing a good, thoughtful plan. We can't afford to wait around for "perfect" when we have the opportunity to implement a good plan now. Learn more at VoteYeson1A.com.
On behalf of the board of governors of Vail Valley Partnership
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