Our housing challenges are caused by lack of supply

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We must increase housing supply, yet anti-housing zealots continue to oppose new housing

There are increasingly two divergent approaches to affordable housing, with a wide gulf between them. One side wants to increase housing inventory and the other actively opposes development. The contrast between these approaches is stark as we seek solutions to our housing challenges. Opponents tend to use a blunt instrument approach, actively working against any efforts to increase density or build any housing stock by claiming that apartments are “design-barren architectural deserts along I-70” and claiming that design review committee processes are “like putting lipstick on a pig”.

To that, I say nonsense. We must focus on increasing the housing supply, and to do so we must reject these efforts by anti-density, anti-affordable housing zealots that tend to dominate local government meetings and affect decision-making. Our elected officials need to hear from pro-housing voices; we need to make affordable housing attainable across the spectrum from rental apartments to multi-family townhomes and other ownership opportunities.

It is incumbent for community members to continue to speak up on the need for affordable and attainable housing. The housing crisis continues throughout Colorado and our valley with no signs of slowing down; the demand for housing greatly exceeds the supply available.

Let’s be clear: our housing challenge is driven by a lack of supply. The U.S. rental vacancy rate is at historic lows. Vacant housing units for sale are also at historically low levels. At a local level, the median home price in Eagle County was $975,000 in 2022. The average household buying power is $505,610 creating an Affordability Gap of $469,390. Of the 31,912 homes in Eagle County, more than 44% are vacant or part-time residents. Our local rental vacancy rates hover around 100% on a year-round basis.

The national data and the local data align: we have a supply problem. The low vacancy rates in apartments result in limited choices and rising costs for renters. Proximity to work is the highest priority. Renters face impacts resulting from short-term rentals limiting choices and causing overcrowding or unhealthy living conditions with the remaining supply.

The anti-housing does not want to increase supply; they do not want increased density; they want to keep an exclusive, exclusionary environment by pushing housing further away from the job centers, so it has less impact on second homes and exclusive neighborhoods. They oppose zoning changes, density, and architectural design. They view workforce housing as a blight on the community and complain about the traffic impacts. They do anything possible to convince themselves that all workforce housing results in cookie-cutter, design barren buildings.

Nothing could be further from the truth and the anti-housing groups are wrong in their assertions. Higher-density development generates less traffic than low-density development per unit.High-density development is pro-environment. The Town of Vail, for example, has two significant opportunities for increasing the housing stock via high-density projects: Timber Ridge and West Middle Creek. Opponents are actively working against both projects.

Despite the anti-housing rhetoric, the town deserves credit for exploring increased density to help increase supply. Opponents use terms like “massive project” that will “dominate the area”, conveniently forgetting this is a redevelopment opportunity and density has benefits. Building denser housing helps minimize sprawl, protecting and preserving the natural environment. Think: Building up, not out. Less sprawl also leads to shorter commutes and decreased carbon emissions. Increased inventory alleviates the housing shortage.

Housing opponents are actively trying to control the narrative against new, high-density housing located near transit routes and job centers. Let your local officials know that you support increased housing supply.


Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com