SUMMIT COUNTY — It’s been some time since the town of Vail was directly involved in building housing. A Tuesday tour through Summit County updated town officials on how government-sponsored housing works today.
The tour included Vail Town Council members Margaret Rogers, Greg Moffet, Ludwig Kurz, Dave Chapin and mayor Andy Daly, as well as town housing authority members and some town staff members. That group met its Breckenridge counterparts, along with a few town officials from Frisco and staff from the Summit Combined Housing Authority.
The tour was arranged to give Vail officials more to think about as they ponder the future of the Chamonix property in West Vail. A 2009 plan envisions 58 units for the property. But current council members wonder if that number is too high and whether fewer homes and more open space might be a better draw for professional couples with kids.
Council members saw three examples of Summit projects, starting at the Valley Brook neighborhood, just north of downtown Breckenridge. That neighborhood, made up of two- and three-bedroom townhomes, is close to a school, the town’s recreation center and the Blue River. The “deed-restricted” homes can only appreciate a maximum of 3 percent per year.
Buyers can earn between 80 percent and 105 percent of the area’s median income, and sale prices ranged from $165,000 to just more than $300,000.
The town took over the project when the original developer backed out in the depths of the economic slump in 2009, but the project has been an unqualified success. Laurie Best, of the Breckenridge Community Development Department, said the neighborhood is close-knit, and several couples have had their first children while living at Valley Brook.
The next stop on the tour was Ophir Mountain, one of the earliest projects the Summit County housing authority tackled. Now nearly 20 years old, the Ophir Mountain units point out one of the problems of appreciation caps. Joanne Van Steenberghe, of the Summit housing authority, said that several homeowners have essentially ignored interior maintenance in the units since they don’t believe that investment will be returned at sale time. One tour member bailed out early from a tour of an empty unit, complaining of an overpowering smell of cat urine.
Still, the Ophir Mountain homes — two-level duplexes with an upper and lower unit — are inexpensive, with three-bedroom homes starting at about $160,000.
Pulling away in the bus, Daly noted that Ophir Mountain’s age is showing — particularly because there’s very little open space in the neighborhood.
That’s not the case at the Peak One neighborhood in Frisco. Just a block from downtown, Peak One is single-family homes, priced around $400,000. That neighborhood clearly resonated with council members.
On the bus ride back to Vail, Moffet said Peak One reinforced his belief that Vail needs to build “move-up” housing for families.
“If we sold four homes to doctors about 40 years old with kids, that would be just fine,” he said, adding that the town should worry less about income limits and more about attracting people who want to be part of the community.
Rogers called the tour “very informative,” and said Vail needs to make sure it pays close attention to what officials in Summit County are learning from their own projects.
Aside from technical items such as the way homeowner associations are structured, Moffet said one of the most important lessons from the Summit County tour is that demand will flow to the right projects.
That means designing Vail’s next project based on what potential customers want, rather than what town officials or consultants think.
That’s going to take some time, but Daly said he’d like to see the first phase of units available by 2016.
Moffet was a bit more ambitious, saying he’d like to see either units for sale or under construction by the time Daly and Rogers leave office. That happens in November of next year.