The 45-acre Lake Hill parcel north of Frisco is one example. The county’s marquee housing enterprise, which it acquired from the U.S. Forest Service late last year for $1.75 million following presidential authorization to make future housing there a reality, is on the horizon. The purchases didn’t, however, account for the millions of dollars it will take to plan, zone, hook up to utilities and, finally, construct homes there. Initial estimates suggest that will all take at least a decade to complete.
The ongoing projects Breckenridge has at various stages of completion, including the 26-unit Huron Landing complex in partnership with the county, are others. The towns of Frisco, Dillon and Silverthorne are also taking a more progressive stance on the issue with the turn of the calendar.
A Look Around
Summit County and the towns also requested, and ultimately received 57 percent approval, from taxpayers this November for a construction fund to make additional strides in the struggle for more workforce housing. That new 5A reserve will now provide upwards of $8 million per year, divided proportionally for each jurisdiction based on a 0.6-percent sales tax, for the next decade.
A similar tax was proposed this election cycle just up the road in Eagle County, another site of significant housing strife, but the measure was resoundingly defeated by 63 percent of voters. Had it passed, Eagle’s 0.3-percent sales tax would have offered the government approximately $5 million annually to follow Summit’s example.
“I just wish our county had the game to do what Summit’s doing,” Vail town councilman Greg Moffet told the Vail Daily ahead of the failed funding bid.
In Pitkin County, the battle for housing also soldiers on. Because of a revenue stream its Aspen-based housing agency established years ago, longtime staffer Julie Kieffer explained, the coffers for construction are healthy. But there are simply so few locations for development. That’s led to local leadership pivoting away from a prior policy of limiting potential housing sites to just those in Aspen’s current borders.
“Definitely there’s a scarcity of land,” said Kieffer, the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority’s qualifications specialist. “Originally when we started buying land, the city council wanted to stay within the urban growth boundary. Now they’re expanding that, looking outside of it and considering areas not only within city limits, but just outside them and on a bus route within the county.”
Being flush with funds is a good problem to have. It’s also shown not to be the only answer.
“We know that the amount of money granted to us, while substantial, does not fund 100 percent of what that needs analysis identified,” said Davidson. “This funding for the next 10 years is going to allow us to really at least not fall further behind, and hopefully even catch up some.”
A Look Forward
Summit’s award-winning housing authority, which has for years been viewed by some as a model for how to help citizens achieve affordable and accessible housing, is itself in the midst of an overhaul as area municipalities decide how it best suits their future needs. How that shakes out won’t fully be known until at least early next year.
The need for additional public-private partnerships, on top of increased cooperation between the member municipalities, are components most recognize will be essential in realizing future solutions. Conversations with large employers like the area’s ski resorts and the Summit School District are underway as well.
“Clearly there is a level of collaborative planning that just has to be done, in my mind anyway,” said Davidson, who also serves as board chair of the Summit Combined Housing Authority. “But how is that we go about coordinating all of these different development projects? That’s one of the things that we have to work through.”
Vail Resorts, through a development partner, has already pitched use of its 28-acre Wintergreen parcel in Keystone to build upwards of 200 new units split between both low-wage seasonal ski workers and year-round rentals for outside, full-time employees of the greater community. A prior agreement between the county government and Copper Mountain also requires that the resort come up with 50 more beds, in either rental or market-rate units, somewhere in the county, plus 15 more for-sale units like those close to completion at Copper Point by the end of 2018.
It’s these types of projects that show the county and its towns are attempting to take steps forward. But also those on which they don’t plan to hang their hat and wait for someone else to fix the problem — even if a single new housing unit can mean the world to people who desire to live where they work.
“Now having something to invest in will be great,” Justin Tietjen, standing on the second floor of his yet finished townhome, said of buying his first home. “It’s about a four-minute walk up to my office, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
“We can’t wait to not deal with I-70,” added his wife Abbi. “In a few more weeks it won’t be an issue. This neighborhood is going to be awesome; to have full-time, year-round people will be fun. I think we know most of them, actually — from work.”