By the Estes Park EDC
Amongst important challenges in the Estes Park community, is a very current issue --- workforce housing.
Estes Park EDC’s mission includes promoting the use of “the tools of economic development to create a more dynamic, multi-generational community to the benefit of all citizens.” The Estes Valley’s economic vitality depends upon an adequate local workforce. Our organization formed in large part due to awareness that housing needs for that workforce were not being addressed. As has been tested in our recent history, everything the valley needs to provide essential services must be provided in the valley. Workforce housing is a key component of ensuring essential services. Video links and written reports on the scope of this problem and solutions can be found at: http://www.estesparkedc.com/estes-park-workforce-housing/
On July 19, our Board heard a presentation concerning Estes Park housing needs from the Estes Park Housing Authority. Board members were struck by the fact that the first two of the four housing needs assessments closely paralleled the number of units actually developed. Indeed, they understood that the methodology for all four studies was substantially similar. This helped ensure the ability to compare projections of demand over time.
Our Board’s concern is that as a result of the 2008 recession, new housing units constructed did not rise to meet the 2008 Needs Assessment demand forecast. It is crucial to recognize that all of the defined multi-family projects discussed to date are not sufficient to meet even past demand. The 2016 Needs Assessment simply confirms that outcome. By 2016, the “catch-up” units needed was estimated at 670 housing units, with a forecasted need for 890 to 1,040 apartment units needed by the year 2020.
Based upon our Board’s July 19 meeting, and more importantly all the data developed and information presented over time to our Board, our Board accepts the 2016 “Estes Park Area Housing Needs Assessment” as a reasonable market forecast of demand. Despite the limitations inherent in any forecast, none of the vague or circular criticisms raised to date about the Needs Assessment are sufficient grounds to reject acting on well-grounded community needs. Employers can attest that this is a challenging environment, with many year-round positions remaining unfilled. It is unfortunate that some residents refuse to acknowledge the testimony of our employers and managers. The needs are real, and negatively affect the ability to recruit and retain employees providing essential community services.
The workforce housing problem is the biggest issue facing our community. For us to function as a community, we need to ensure we have sufficient workforce housing to provide a variety of services here—not depend upon locations outside the Estes Valley. We re-affirm Estes Park EDC’s support for the positive steps toward a solutions taken by the Town Board to date. Given the overwhelming public testimony and survey data developed, which together identify and quantify the workforce housing problem, our Board asks that staff and elected and appointed officials act on implementation of plans that meet these identified issues.
As the Comprehensive Plan update gets under way, we respectfully request that our public officials continue to call for community-wide solutions to identified problems. This community-wide process will result in clear public policies, thus enabling the Estes Valley to face the challenges of the future. Meanwhile, Estes Park EDC will continue to support solutions as the Town of Estes Park’s partner in the economic health of this community.