Vail Daily letter: Next steps for housing
November 15, 2016
The housing tax 1A was overwhelmingly rejected. Now what? I don't believe that someone should only opine against something and not offer an alternative. With that thought in mind, here are a few basic beliefs and potential solutions.
Look first to solutions that don't cost money. The county should immediately make some major changes to their onerous regulations that discourage workforce housing. The county could make the process easier, less expensive and more certain for projects they support.
Private enterprise and government should each do what they do best and not compete with each other. The county should not be in the building business. Look for mutually beneficial public/private partnerships.
Employee housing is a cost of doing business in Eagle County. County government is not responsible for building housing for private employers. Larger employers should be providing their own employee housing. Smaller businesses could join together where each has a stake in a larger project.
Be specific when asking voters to financially support a project. Trust in government is at an all-time low for good reason. People want to be assured that their money will be well spent. Avoid developing new costly bureaucracies. Define goals that are SMART — Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic, Time based.
Demonstrate success on a small scale that can be built upon. Do not ask voters for millions of their hard earned dollars until you can show you know how to use that money wisely.
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Finally, have a discussion first with the voters and then develop a plan that they support and helped to create. Don't rely on a poll and then try to sell voters on your solution.
The county repeatedly talked about a need for over 4,000 new homes. At the same time they wanted more money for open space. These are obviously competing efforts in search of the same land. We never heard a good explanation of how this problem would be handled.
I'm generally not in favor of new regulations unless they address a new issue. A new related issue is rentals through websites like AirBnB and VRBO. The county and towns should be looking to register, regulate and tax vacation home rentals. This would only be taxing visitors, not locals.
Eagle County is unique and one of a kind. The best solutions to our issues are usually also unique and one of a kind. We should expect more from our elected officials than a reliance on what neighboring different counties are doing. Creative thinking matched with some hard work can result in a solution to the housing problem that the voters would support.
Former Eagle County commissioner
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