Jenn Bruno, owner of a boutique in the Town of Vail, currently only has one employee, a teenager, who can only work for a few hours a week. Bruno’s lack of employees isn’t by choice, and it isn’t because people don’t want to work. Instead, the difficulty comes from Vail’s extreme housing shortage.
“Someone explained to me that housing needs to be like infrastructure. We need to treat it like roads and bridges. And we need to make sure we have it, especially in a community like Vail, where we have one industry, and it’s tourism.” – Jen Bruno, to the Associated Press
Vail’s full-time population sits at just around 5,600 people, but nearly 1.5 million people visit the small mountain town throughout the year. As a result, both the large number of second-home purchases by wealthier visitors and the rental market fueled by companies like airbnb has caused real estate prices to skyrocket, making it more and more difficult for employees to find housing. According to the Associated Press, the median price for a single family home sat at $1.2 million in Eagle County last summer.
Vail Resorts has been working to build an apartment building to fit 160 employees on their Booth Heights property for more than six years, but the Town of Vail has fought against the construction, claiming it puts a local big horn sheep habitat at risk, despite initially approving the project. Instead, the town offered the company access to a 140 person apartment building being built in downtown Vail, but the company denied.
Due to extremely high real estate prices, most individuals living in Vail are forced to rely on rentals, but even those prices can be quite difficult bare for local employees. Robyn Smith and her husband, Vail locals who won a lottery to purchase a 1,200-square-foot deed-restricted home for $525,000 last year, were previously paying $3,200 a month for their apartment with a broken refrigerator, and Karole Denning, who lives about 5 miles from Vail in Minturn, rents a 103-square-foot room for $900 a month. Eagle County’s “fair market rent” for a studio is $1,132 a month, but even those tend to be around 10 miles or more away from Vail itself.
“In five years they’ve built seven hotels, and they can’t build one of them for us to live in. And we work here.” – Karole Denning, according to the AP
Image Credit: Associated Press via YouTube