Avon sees home price surge, parents driven out
Eagle County Correspondent
AVON” Houses are unaffordable, and rent rates are crippling.
The workforce, for the most part, lives elsewhere.
First-time home buyers and seasonal employees alike are having a hard time finding a reasonable place to live.
Avon, in short, needs a lot of work to meet its housing needs, according to an assessment done by RRC Associates, a Boulder consulting firm hired by the town.
Avon leaders say they will use the above findings to build policies that will hopefully help potential Avon residents stay in town.
The study highlights several gaps in Avon’s housing market, and most of them relate directly to affordability.
For instance, there’s the dramatic surge in home prices over the past few years. In 2006, the median price for a home in Avon was $430,000″ an 81.4 percent increase from 2000. In comparison, the median family income increased only 17.5 percent in that period.
The study says a typical household can afford a home priced about three times higher than its income, but the median sale value of homes in 2006 was more than five times higher than the median family income.
This means first-time home owners are having a hard time finding a spot in Avon. The Eagle County School District reported that 75 percent of its turnover last year was due to employees moving out of the valley to purchase homes. Competition was especially high for homes in the $300,000 to $400,000 range, with Front Range residents scooping up those cheaper spots for holiday and weekend use.
“They find that they can attract young teachers out of college given the ‘glamorous’ location, but when they decide to start a family, they often move out of the valley to afford a home,” the report said.
Realtors noted the Avon housing shortage is seen at all price levels, from first-time homebuyers to seasonal workers to families wanting bigger homes.
Avon has several affordable apartments, but many are full and have waiting lists. Property managers said in the report they have very few units turn over each year, and spots are especially hard to come by during winter months.
Only 29 percent of Avon’s workforce actually lives in Avon, meaning the rest are commuting. By making homes more affordable, Avon employers will be less reliant on outside labor markets for workers, according to the report.
“Despite the number of year-round rentals in town, local need for units continues to be higher than the supply,” the report said.
Avon might be worse off than the report indicates. Information was largely based on the 2000 census, and Councilwoman Amy Phillips points to big employers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot that have opened in the meantime and brought in more workers.
“We have to get a better sense of where we are today,” Phillips said.
Councilman Brian Sipes wants an even deeper look into the different types of housing needed for a wide variety of workers, family types and incomes, stressing it’s part of the town’s mission to promote diversity.
The solution shouldn’t be building scores of affordable units and hope workers will come, he said.
One solution suggested in the report is creating permanent affordable housing units that would be sold below market price for income-qualified buyers. They would carry deed restrictions that prevent the price of a house from surging even after a transfer of ownership.
Another idea is to tinker with town zoning and evaluate areas where higher densities of residents could live.
“Land banking,” or buying new plots for development is an option, as well as starting partnerships with the private sector.
” Matt Terrell/Eagle County correspondent
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