Doing nothing is not an option, that would not be just or fair, so what would we include in our practice:
1.) Stop the leakage. We need to work with landlords and purchase existing units. If we don't we will lose ground faster than we can make up with new construction. For instance, a Housing Study in Boulder found that the market will lose about 1,000 market affordable units per year, while adding back about 123 units of deed restricted annually. That is a net loss of 877 units per year, even with the Herculean efforts required to site 123 units per year in skeptical neighborhoods.
In resort areas, the strategy may include limitations on the number of VRBO rentals, easing regulations on accessory dwelling units, and purchasing rental stock and deed restricting the units. An example of the latter is taking place in Boulder at this time in order to turn 238 apartments into permanently affordable rentals.
None of this is easy but the benefits of an economically diverse community area manyfold. The community benefits from new ideas and volunteerism from young people, diverse population groups, and the wisdom of seniors.
This can only be accomplished if communities prioritize this issue and assign staff to work on it daily. An affordable housing advocate is needed to work with landlords, put together collaborations, and shepherd projects through the process.
2.) Build new units. There are several critical components to managing the subsidy required for affordable housing. The cost of land, the soft costs (to design, permit, and pay local government fees), infrastructure, and construction costs. Let's start by inventorying all of the publicly-owned land federal, state, county, local, special districts, etc.) from the Pitkin County line to West Glenwood or beyond.
Fortunately, geographic information systems give up the tools to accomplish this relatively easily. Utilizing staff and local advocate expertise, the soft costs could be minimized. Targeted locations that are not on public lands could be pursued through the use of grant and gift money under the umbrella of a Community Land Trust. We are fortunate to have an active and effective Habitat for Humanity program in the region that is also part of the practice.
Inclusionary housing requirements and commercial housing mitigations should be the same in Eagle and Garfield County as well as the incorporated towns therein. The system should be fair and consistent.
In addition to inclusionary zoning, we need an open discussion of requiring a deed restriction for Resident-Occupancy on all new developments that require a zone change. No more upzonings for empty houses.
While we cannot build our way out of the problem, we can extend our practice into new development.