Howard: We need housing solutions of all types
Recently I was asked what the solution was to our current housing crisis. It’s a loaded question with no simple answer, but I am hopeful that together we can create change and increase housing options.
However, it is a long process – and without a quick fix. So, to those who have asked me what the solution is; Here is. And thank you for reading me and looking for me to continue the conversation.
Housing is complicated. As a community, we need to find solutions for the full housing continuum – options from services to the homeless to homeownership, and everything in between. Young people settling for the first time in Eagle County have very different housing needs than families who have lived here for years and wish to continue to settle in Eagle River Valley. One group is no more imperative than another; we need solutions along the continuum.
Providing housing is not as simple as building: we cannot get out of the situation we find ourselves in – however, construction is an important part. And, as obvious as it may sound, land is a finite and precious resource here. As a community, we must build with intention; establish land use policies that encourage a mix of housing units to maximize density where it makes sense. There is a clear need to increase the number and types of units available for rental and purchase.
Increasing housing options requires community investment, as well as a mix of thoughtful planning, implementing new programs, and adding to existing programs, including deed restrictions on pre-existing and new construction. , down payment assistance and regulations. It is important to recognize that these programs are significant investments in our community infrastructure.
We are moving in the right direction: there are innovative local programs focused on purchasing restrictions on the existing building stock in order to make them permanently accessible to local buyers. Eagle County has increased its down payment allowance. Avon recently approved $ 900,000 for its Mi Casa program to help purchase a home in Avon. Vail’s inDeed program has been recognized nationally as an out-of-the-box solution to tightening existing building stock.
Land use policy
What else can we do? Review our land use policies and processes to maximize results. Can commercial zones coincide with residential zones? Can the eligibility process be streamlined to get a yes or no faster?
This would allow private developers willing to consider building affordable housing time and money. Can the regulations be changed, allowing less parking? Can the increase in density in some areas be supported? Can ADUs be approved and brought to code? We strive to advocate for updated policies that will encourage smart growth.
This work is a heavy burden, it is expensive, takes time and is deeply personal. We need to explore creative solutions and new partnerships.
Eagle County Schools is on a mission to educate our youth. However, to do this, it needs a dedicated workforce. Habitat Vail Valley is a home building company. We are a non-profit real estate developer, able to build affordably because we don’t make a profit. We have partnered to provide housing for Eagle County school employees through land donated by the district at Grace Avenue in Gypsum and, most recently, donated land on Third Street in Eagle.
In total, these projects will accommodate 24 district employees. These types of partnerships encourage the longevity of the workforce and strengthen the community.
Advocacy and political leadership
Finally, we must give our elected officials reasons to say “yes, in my garden”. Our local and state leaders are listening now.
It is imperative that we share responsible, long-term solutions with them. We are delighted that Representative Dylan Roberts is part of the state’s Housing Legislative Task Force and is working on ways to allocate $ 400 million in federal funds to housing initiatives. As the sole representative of Western Slope, he will be an important voice for the unique housing struggles in Colorado’s mountain communities and advocate for dollars to be spent here, now.
There are solutions that can promote the continuity of our workforce and the stability of our community, but work cannot be done in a vacuum; it requires the collective efforts of many of us.
I believe that to improve the fabric of our community, we need to work together and think creatively. I love hearing from each of you, stimulating a conversation that can lead to new ideas and ultimately new homes.
Elyse Howard is Director of Development for Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley, where she also oversees advocacy efforts to help increase housing stability for families in Eagle County. She works to build partnerships and create a community conversation. Learn more at HabitatVailValley.org.