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Vail Pays Property Owners To Keep Housing For Local Workers. Could It Work In Idaho?

The Sun Valley Resort lawn during a summer orchestra performance.
Tal Roberts
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Visit Sun Valley
Ketchum city council members heard a presentation from a Vail, Colorado employee about a program there to set aside housing for local workers.

Ketchum city officials are looking to another mountain west ski resort community for ideas on solving the affordable housing crisis.

The city heard a presentation from a Vail, Colorado, employee Monday evening about a program there called Vail InDEED. It involves the local housing authority paying property owners to keep existing units in the long-term housing stock, specifically for local workers.

George Ruther, the housing director for Vail, told Ketchum city council members the goal of Vail’s program is to prevent properties from being sold to part-time residents or converted to short-term rentals.

The town found about a third of the housing units were occupied as primary residences. But since 2010, when those properties sold, about 90% of them went to owners who didn’t live there full-time, further depleting the long-term supply.

“Once it moves into that pool of homes, rarely, if ever, does it move back to a local homeownership opportunity,” Ruther said.

The only restriction in this program is that the property has to be occupied full-time by individuals who work a minimum of 30 hours per week in Eagle County, Colo.

“No longer is a local resident, earning local wages, competing for home ownership with a person who lives on the east or west coast,” Ruther said.

The workers can rent or own the units. There are no income limits, family size requirements or price appreciation caps.

The Vail Housing Authority estimated that the deed restriction would decrease a property’s value by about 15 to 20%, so that’s about the amount it pays the owners.

During a discussion after the presentation, a lawyer for the city of Ketchum said he thought the program would be in accordance with Idaho law, which is more restrictive on the actions local municipalities can take to create affordable housing.

Vail’s capital projects fund dedicates $2.5 million annually to the InDEED program. So far it’s acquired 162 deed-restricted units, many of them condos or townhomes, for local workers. It wants to have 1,000 properties as part of the program by 2027.

Ketchum city council members were excited by this idea, but city staff said the first step is coming up with a better-defined, overarching housing strategy.

Ketchum is also considering dedicating more than $600,000 from federal COVID relief funds to affordable housing initiatives, including possibly hiring a consultant or staffer focused on housing.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

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