Vail Daily letter: ‘Yes’ on 1A | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily letter: ‘Yes’ on 1A

The Vail Valley Partnership focuses on issues that impact our region, our communities, our businesses, and our citizens. With membership over 800 businesses consisting of over 80 percent of the local workforce, we strive to provide a voice for our business community at a local, regional and state level.

We track a wide range of legislative and regulatory issues, looking at policy matters in terms of their potential impact on the Vail Valley business community.

We believe that our quality of life in Eagle County is better when businesses succeed; and we are aggressive in advocating for issues that impact our business community. The top issue negatively impacting our business community right now is the availability (or, rather, lack of) affordable workforce housing.

The Vail Valley Partnership's board of governors knows there are no easy solutions to the challenges of affordable housing. Nevertheless, affordable workforce housing is a community necessity and we can help the situation by voting "yes" on ballot issue 1A.

We understand that folks generally don't like taxes, and yet we recognize that taxes help pay for community necessities. Workforce housing is good for our economy, and supports the needs of our businesses and emerging businesses, which ties back to our belief that quality of life is paid for when businesses succeed and are able to service our guests, provide jobs for our locals, and ensure a vibrant community of locals.

Voters have received ballots in the mail already, and we want to take an opportunity to answer some common questions regarding ballot issue 1A:

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Q: Why do we need a funding source for affordable workforce housing?

A: We have a significant housing problem. We need 4,500 housing units today and will need a total of 12,000 by 2025 to house our workforce (source: Eagle County Housing Assessment). As housing prices increase far faster than area wages, our resort brands create demand for limited housing stock; and high land prices make free-market development of affordable units financially unviable to developers.

Q: How much will this cost? How much will it raise?

A: 1A is asking for approval for a 3/10 sales tax — that's $0.03 sales tax on every $10 purchase (exempting groceries). It is estimated to raise up to $5.4 million per year to help address our housing issues. Is this enough? No. But it is progress towards solutions we need for now and the future.

Q: How will this money be used?

A: There's no silver bullet solution to our housing crisis; as a result, 1A will allow for a variety of uses including new construction of deed-restricted housing for owners (i.e., Miller Ranch), deed-restricted housing for renters, down payment assistance programs, public-private partnerships with developers, unit buy-downs by adding deed restrictions to existing properties, and more. We need to find any tool we can use to put more units into the long-term housing pool.

Q: Won't this just increase our cost of living, increasing the cost to live in Eagle County?

A: A sales tax of three cents on every $10 is estimated to cost the average family approximately $150 per year ($42-50 per person) and exempts grocery sales. Of course, much of our sales tax is collected from visitors and second-home owners. Local wages have increased, but not at the same level as real estate appreciation, leading to an increased affordability gap in home prices. 1A creates an opportunity to keep locals local, and create more workforce to fill local jobs. Eagle County's average sales tax is lower (and will remain lower with the passage of 1A) than other mountain resort communities including Grand, Gunnison, and Pitkin. Cost of living issues become exasperated if businesses need to move out of Eagle County to grow and expand due to a lack of workforce.

Q: What are other communities doing?

A: A lot! Aspen, Boulder, Mountain Village, Summit County and Telluride all have sales taxes in place for affordable workforce housing. Boulder also has a property tax and development excise. Aspen also has a real estate transfer tax, and numerous counties and cities have additional housing impact fees.

Affordable workforce housing is good for our economy, and it is a necessity to ensure a diverse business community. We encourage you to vote "yes" on 1A, and learn more at VoteYeson1A.com. It is a little to help ensure a lot of sustainability in the future!

Beth Slifer

Owner, Slifer Designs; member, board of governors, Vail Valley Partnership