Supporters of Vail Resorts’ efforts to build workforce housing in East Vail criticize the Vail City Council for trying to block the project. But the city has a long history of building employee housing and pioneering initiatives to help local workers enter the market.
The list, dating from the 1990s Vail Commons project above City Market in West Vail, is quite extensive, representing some 600 homes for sale and rent across 11 different developments.
George Ruther, the city’s director of housing, said as the fourth-largest employer in the Vail community, the city has a need and a responsibility to provide homeownership and rental opportunities to its workforce. work. The list of workforce housing projects the city has built or purchased ranges from large (142 rental units in Middle Creek; 114 rental units in Lion’s Ridge Apartments; 96 rental units in Timber Ridge Village; 53 rental units in sale and 18 rentals in Vail Commons) to medium (24 houses for sale in Buzzard Park; 32 houses for sale in Chamonix Vail; 18 houses for sale in Red Sandstone Creek Townhouses) to small (six houses for sale in North Trail Town Homes; two houses for sale at Duplex Arosa).
Among those 600 units are the 72 rental units slated to come online at Residences at Main Vail, the alternative workforce housing development that city officials hoped to partner with Vail Resorts to avoid developing the East Vail plot.
The city also launched its highly successful Vail InDEED program in 2018, which relies heavily on public/private partnerships to increase housing supply. The program has increased the supply of dedicated housing for Vail residents by almost 50%, for a total investment of more than $12 million. Some 380 residents and their families have found housing in Vail through the program.
Still, Vail officials and workforce housing advocates say there’s still more to do.
Longtime Vail housing advocate Steve Lindstrom chairs the Vail Local Housing Authority Board of Directors and has served on that board since approximately 2001. In that position, he has seen a lot of work, and a lot of delay or slaughter, as far as labor is concerned. lodging.
Lindstrom said the city’s efforts over the years were “OK.” But, he added, there is still much to do.
“We’re doing better than many of our peers, given our constraints,” Lindstrom said. The biggest of these constraints is the lack of available land in Vail within the city limits.
Lindstrom said the city needs to start “creating” land, working primarily with landlords.
That, rather than looking west of the city, should be a major focus, Lindstrom said.
So far, efforts to look west have yielded little, Lindstrom said.
“So many things are out of our control,” he added.
In town, there have been a number of failures to launch workforce housing efforts.
A paperwork problem
Some can be attributed to city approval processes.
Lindstrom noted that a proposed 2021 project for the Cascade Village tennis courts did not make it past its first meeting with the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission.
The Vail City Council then requested a restart of the process, but by then the proposed developer had abandoned the project.
Vail resident Bobby Lipnick chairs the Eagle County Housing Task Force, a group of private and public figures dedicated to more housing for the workforce in the Valley. Lipnick also lives near the Cascade tennis courts.
Lipnick said at one point that he sat down in the field with the proposed developer, and it saddens him that the project fell through.
But some of those failures over the years can be traced to Vail Resorts.
Lindstrom noted that conversations over the years with local company officials started with some enthusiasm, then died down as the ideas went to the company’s headquarters in Broomfield.
“At this point the people of Broomfield have to spin the globe to find Vail,” he added.
While East Vail is the focus at the moment, Lindstrom and Lipnick said there are options available for both the city and the resort company. One of the most often mentioned is the use of part of the 10-acre parcel that was once the Ever Vail project. This site would give workers walking access to jobs, restaurants and other businesses.
Lipnick objected to the Vail City Council’s May 3 decision to begin sentencing proceedings on the East Vail parcel. But, he said, this site involves a lot of site work before anything can be built.
“There are better places”
“There are better places,” Lipnick said. “And it personally breaks my heart to see the community torn apart by (the issue).”
Regardless of what happens with the East Vail plot, Lipnick and Lindstrom said Vail, Eagle County and the rest of the towns in the Valley need to keep working.
Housing at this point is a matter of economic survival, Lindstrom said.
“Vail has a lot of services that the world wants,” Lindstrom said. “Our problem is to provide this service. You can’t do it from afar.
Lindstrom said the service — meaning housing for those who provide it — should be the city’s “secret sauce.”
And, despite the current challenges, Lipnick said he’s “optimistic” that solutions can be found.
Speaking about the current conflict between Vail Resorts and the City of Vail, Lipnick said officials on both sides should be locked in a room and not come out until they find some kind of partnership.
Ultimately, he added, local governments in the valley must find both the funds and the political will to work with private sector partners.
“They realize that workforce housing is really at a crisis level,” Lipnick said. “If we continue as we do…I’m afraid we won’t have the community we’ve come to love.”