Vail eyes ‘buy-downs’ to house workers |

Vail eyes ‘buy-downs’ to house workers

Edward Stoner
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colo. ” The town of Vail could soon have millions of dollars for its fight to keep workers living in town.

Town officials want to use the money to “buy down” homes to make sure Vail isn’t full of second-home owners. To buy down a home, the town would purchase a home on the free market and place a deed restriction on it that would mandate that it is owned by a local worker forever. The home could then be rented or sold to workers.

Aspen, too, has identified “buy-downs” as a means of creating additional worker housing, but spends most of its housing dollars purchasing property and constructing housing. Aspen housing officials quickly discovered buy-downs are rarely a cost-effective means of acquiring housing, given the resort’s sky-high real estate prices.

“I think we need to be jumping on it, buying down as much as we possibly can right now,” said Mark Gordon, a Vail councilman.

The Fogata Lodge, a new development that’s planned for where the Lionshead Inn is now, could pay $2.7 million to the town’s “pay in lieu” fund to satisfy its employee housing requirements.

Other developers could add to that fund.

The rising prices of homes is pushing workers farther and farther from Vail. There are now no homes in the town’s housing market that are affordable to a two-person household that makes the median income of $89,600 a year, according to town officials.

More than two-thirds of homes here are owned by nonresidents. Locals’ homes will continue to be snatched up by people looking for vacation homes, the town officials say.

Right now, there’s only $8,592 in the “fee in lieu” fund. But in the wake of last year’s passage of strict new employee housing rules, that fund is poised to grow.

Buy-downs could be the most common use of the money, said Nina Timm, the town’s housing coordinator.

“It diversifies our housing inventory in the type of units,” she said. “And it integrates them into the community.”

Some have even suggested that the town use the money to create affordable homes outside of Vail ” even as far away as Gypsum. Less-expensive property downvalley could give Vail more bang for its buck.

The developer of Stratton Flats in Gypsum has approached the town about a partnership, Timm said.

But not everyone is a big fan of “fee in lieu” dollars.

“I have serious concerns about pay-in-lieu,” said Vail Mayor Dick Cleveland. “The most serious concern that I have is that every time a developer makes a pay-in-lieu payment to the town, the burden of construction leaves the developer and falls on the town.”

Municipalities aren’t good at building housing, but developers are, Cleveland said. He said he’d like to see developers include more housing within their projects.

One way to discourage the fee-in-lieu option is to increase its fee. It currently costs $131,000 to satisfy the housing requirement for one employee.

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