Summit County officials take notes on Vail’s cash incentives for deed restrictions |

Summit County officials take notes on Vail’s cash incentives for deed restrictions

Interstate 70 leading towards the basin of Summit County seen March 27. Officials in Summit County are looking at a program that was created by the town of Vail about a year ago and incentivizes putting deed restrictions on new and existing properties by offering their owners cash from the town to do so.
Hugh Carey /

Facing the same problems sustaining a true community that other resort destinations are, the town of Vail has been buying deed restrictions on existing homes for about a year now.

The Vail InDEED program comes as yet another arrow in the town’s quiver to bolster housing options for people working in Eagle County. Meanwhile, it has piqued the interest of county and town officials in Summit County, too.

Vail InDEED works as a deed-restriction purchasing mechanism that allows the town to incentivize people putting deed restrictions on existing housing by paying the owners to do so.

Presenting some of the program details to the Summit Combined Housing Authority on Wednesday, Vail’s housing director George Ruther said that they’ve been getting deed-restricted units through the program at much cheaper prices than the town could otherwise build them.

“With the program being in place for a little over a year now, our average cost per deed restriction is a little more than $62,000,” he said, which works out to be about $82 per square foot, or roughly $45,000 per bedroom.

So far, Vail has invested $6.5 million in the program altogether and put deed restrictions on 107 properties in 21 transactions, Ruther said. About half of that money came from the town’s mitigation fund — which is fed by developers who pursue projects in Vail. The rest came from other town sources.

For 2019, Vail has appropriated $2.5 million for the program, which comes in addition to any funds collected from mitigation of development impacts and fed into the town’s housing fund.

Hoping to secure 1,000 additional deed-restricted housing units by 2027, Vail has opened the Vail InDEED program to anyone who’s interested in buying, investing, remodeling, selling or simply wanting to live in Vail.

One example of how it works, Ruther said, is helping homebuyers who could afford a mortgage payment but don’t necessarily have the money for a 20 percent down payment to buy a home in Vail. By getting a little help, those people can close on the home or even buy one that was a little out of their price range before.

They’ve also seen employers that want to provide housing for their workers participating in the program along with some developers, too. Investors can also get in on the action, as long as they’re willing to add a deed restriction.

Ruther said the town’s less interested in who owns the home than it is ensuring that it’s occupied by local residents.

“In Vail, we talk about being the premiere international mountain resort community, and we mean that purposefully — resort and community,” Ruther said. “Without programs like this … we become nothing more than a resort.”

The amount awarded for a deed restriction depends on the circumstances, such as how much someone requests and how well the property that’s to be deed restricted meets the program’s review criteria.

Efforts to promote workforce housing in Colorado’s mountain communities are nothing new, but the Vail InDEED program is believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S., Ruther said.

Because Vail’s housing problems are not unique, the town’s new program has garnered attention, not only in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, but across the U.S., in places like the Lake Tahoe-Truckee region of California.

“Like Breckenridge, Park City, Aspen and Jackson Hole — we all have many of the same tools in place but we all have many of the exact same housing problems,” Ruther said. “Vail InDEED is really about coming up with a new tool, a new opportunity, a different way of thinking about the problem to provide some solutions.”

Knowing that Ruther would be discussing the program Wednesday in Frisco, Breckenridge senior planner Laurie Best brought it up last week before Breckenridge Town Council, where she expressed Breckenridge’s interest in doing something similar.

Best said that Breckenridge town staff like the model created by Vail InDEED, but she thinks local officials will need to hash out the finer details, such as exactly what kind of deed restrictions.

Exactly how or if the program could be duplicated or mimicked in Breckenridge and Summit County remains to be seen. But local officials were interested in Wednesday’s presentation nonetheless, with town managers, planners and housing authority personnel listening and posing questions.

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