For years, state demographers have predicted that Eagle County’s population will reach over 90,000 by 2040. A recent study shows the trend may accelerate and remote working is on the rise. a large part.
the Colorado Ski Town Association and the Northwestern Colorado Council of Governments in 2020, commissioned a survey of mountain migration to try to understand the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has affected where people live and what they do.
The study collected data in March and April of this year from participants in Eagle, Summit, Grand, Pitkin, Routt and San Miguel counties. These counties contain the lion’s share of the state’s ski areas.
Council of Governments Director Jon Stavney, a longtime Eagle resident, former town mayor and former Eagle County commissioner, said he found some surprises in the data uncovered by the inquiry.
Stavney said he initially believed the survey would show second home owners had all come and all short-term rentals were met.
“It turns out that COVID has really sped up remote working,” Stavney said. “We live in a truly wonderful place with a high quality of life. It was surprising how many (people) moved and planned to stay.
Another surprise came from the information on the rental market in the area. For years, residents of resort areas have known that rentals are getting more expensive and more and more landlords are replacing their homes with short-term rentals.
But Stavney said the survey showed many people are buying and living in older rental housing. This reduces both supply and prices for people who already lived in the area.
Many of those buyers are people with annual household incomes over $ 150,000, Stavney said. Local residents cannot compete with newcomers who pay cash and offer more than asking prices, he added.
With the wealth of information available in the study, Stavney said it’s now up to community leaders – from elected officials to business owners and others – to decide what to do.
Michael Hazard, an Avon resident, was one of the founders of the Eagle County Housing Task Force. This group, made up of residents, business leaders and local government officials, has been urging public-private partnerships for several years to build more workforce housing in the county.
Hazard said the investigation confirmed what members of the task force had suspected for some time.
The results of the investigation indicate “a serious problem,” Hazard said. “It’s not temporary, it’s not seasonal and it’s not going to go away.”
Hazard said proponents of housing must use studies like the Migration Study to tackle opponents of workforce housing. In this way, the study can be used as a tool to influence decision-makers to take action, he added.
“You have to develop the courage to develop more housing,” Hazard said.
Is housing really “essential?”
Hazard said his perception is that housing still receives mostly “talk and talk” from elected officials in Eagle County and its towns.
“I don’t think (housing) has become essential for many (office holders),” he said.
And while developable land can be difficult to find, Stavney said there are potential solutions.
Stavney noted that Summit County dezoned a housing plot next to the county government campus last year. This parcel had previously been zoned as a designated open space. But, he added, the plot is located between other uses, and is suitable for housing.
“A lot of things should be on the table that maybe weren’t there before,” Stavney said, adding that local governments should look at every public property.
In Eagle and Eagle County, Stavney said schools in Eagle County have good ground. A plot on Third Street in Eagle between the fire hall and Eagle Valley Elementary School could be a good candidate for housing, he said.
Eagle’s public works facility on Chambers Avenue has room for a few labor units, although Stavney acknowledged that “not everyone wants to live where they work.” Still, he said, some of these sites could be used for “transitional” housing for new employees coming from outside the valley.
Perhaps the rodeo grounds at the Eagle County Fairgrounds could be used for housing near downtown Eagle, Stavney suggested. The rodeo ground could be moved west to make room.
“We have to look at some of the crazy ideas,” he added.