Williams: Vail Resorts vows to take on workforce housing (column)
September 15, 2016
With the remarkable population boom in our Colorado mountain communities showing no signs of slowing, most everyone agrees there is no more pressing issue than workforce housing.
Vail Resorts recognizes the important role we continue to play in working closely with many stakeholders, including local governments, county agencies, businesses, families and individuals, who all want to find the right, long-term solutions to this increasingly urgent situation.
Nearly a year ago our company pledged to continue to seek collaborative, innovative solutions that address the challenge. We've already made significant progress:
• We announced an unprecedented $30 million commitment to help bring on new workforce housing in mountain communities with a pledge to seek strategic partnerships over the next several years to spark intergovernmental and business collaboration, and maximize our investments to assure worthy projects move forward;
• The discussion and vetting of potential collaborative projects is ongoing and in Summit County we are excited by the proposed Wintergreen project in Keystone, that, pending community input and county approvals, will provide up to 200 units for Vail Resorts employees as well as create more workforce housing opportunities for others employed in the county;
• As the largest provider of employee housing within the Colorado ski industry, we currently provide more than 3,000 beds in Summit and Eagle counties — with an increase of 343 beds over the last three years.
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While we are encouraged that many good works are underway, we understand there is more work ahead for all of us and we will continue to be a leader in the dialogue. Partnering with other stakeholders to find long-term solutions for workforce housing, Vail Resorts is proud to further endorse both of the housing initiatives on the ballot in Summit and Eagle counties this November. In Summit County, the November ballot question — 5A — will raise an estimated $7.8 million dollars a year via a 0.6 percent sales tax with a 10-year sunset, and will be distributed across Summit County and its towns, and will be used primarily to fund needed infrastructure improvements to get major housing projects — such as Summit County's Lake Hill development — off the ground.
In Eagle County, voters will be asked to support a 0.3 percent sales tax to fund workforce housing efforts countywide. This proposal would generate approximately $5.4 million per year and would sunset after 20 years. The proposed tax will fund land acquisition for housing projects, increase affordable rental units and provide down payment assistance loans to spur home ownership.
We're realists. We know that workforce housing is an issue that won't be solved overnight. And it cannot be tackled in silos. As we believe our communities can be so much stronger when we work together for future generations and their quality of life, Vail Resorts is committed to partnering with other stakeholders over the years to come to find enduring solutions to this shared challenge. We encourage the citizens of Eagle and Summit counties to support these housing ballot measures this November to continue the progress that's so critically required.
Kristin Kenney Williams is the vice president for mountain community affairs for Vail Resorts.
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