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Talk softly and carry a small housing stick


Compiled by Allen Best

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. — In Eagle County, the official policy regarding affordable housing is to talk softly and carry a tiny, padded stick.

Again, the county commissioners have rejected any notion of mandating affordable housing in conjunction with other development projects, a concept under discussion for seven years now. By a 2-to-1 vote, the commissioners have instead opted for "guidelines" that suggest 10 per cent of a project should be devoted to affordable housing.

Eagle County has had affordable housing problems since at least 1962, when Vail began operations. In booming times, housing commensurate with wages is scare or worse. In slack times, there’s an oversupply. The last two or three years have been among those rare times of abundance.

How long will it last? Not much longer, according to various projections. Retiring baby boomers are expected to flood the Eagle Valley, driving up prices while fuelling demand for services. That, in turn, will cause massive commuting by service workers, some 36,000 a day by the year 2025. Predictably, there will be calls for government-subsidized housing. Even more predictable will be calls for highway improvements and mass transit. Most of the new workers are expected to live in neighbouring counties, near Leadville and Rifle.

One way or another, there will be a subsidy to ensure the business of leisure continues. The question is to whom the buck will be passed and when.

The guidelines adopted by Commissioner Tom Stone, a Republican, and commissioner Michael Gallagher, a Democrat, suggested 10 per cent of the housing needs that are generated by specific developments be provided by those developments. Commissioner Arn Menconi wanted the 10 per cent mandated, but called the guideline a "good starting point," reports the Vail Daily.

In a sure-fire winner of anybody’s No-Kidding Award, Stone said that guidelines give the county flexibility in dealing with housing shortages on a case-by-case basis. "Regulations wouldn’t have allowed that," he said.

There has been an abundance lately of affordable housing, in part due to several new projects mandated or funded by local towns, i.e. Vail, Avon, and Eagle, as the front-end affordable housing for major projects soon to be built. Pointing to those mandated or subsidized projects as evidence, Stone, said the "free market is doing a pretty good job."

Economy returning to hyper

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. — The economy seems to be back to its old, vigorous, almost hyperventilating self in Eagle County.

The Vail Daily reports passenger counts at Eagle County Regional Airport up 12 per cent for the winter. Sales tax receipts have been up 18 per cent this year, after being down 5 per cent last year, reflecting in part the opening of new big-box retailers, Home Depot and Wal-Mart Supercenter. In Vail itself, sales tax receipts were up 10 per cent in mid-winter.