“Vail InDEED,” Moab City Council member Kalen Jones said at the Moab Area Housing Task Force meeting on March 7.
Vail InDEED is a program operated by the housing authority in Vail, Colorado, that pays property owners with tax monies to deed restrict their properties to be used for longterm housing instead of overnight rentals.
Jones mentioned the program as an example of how another resort town is addressing its own housing problems. In Moab, city planners and officials have been looking for more strategies to use in a multifaceted approach to housing in the community.
Taking inspiration from Vail, an “Indeed Moab” program is being considered by the Moab Area Housing Task Force (MAHTF). The task force is comprised of various community members and organizations. In its Affordable Housing Action Plan revised on February 7, updates were made to the plan to include the addition of a line stating “Indeed Moab (see vailindeed.com).”
George Ruther, housing director of Vail, has played a key role in the Vail InDEED program. Vail’s year-round population is about 5,000, as estimated by the 2010 U.S. Census.
“With every home sale to the vacation market, so goes a small piece of our year-round community,” Ruther told the Moab Sun News. “The town realized long ago that due to the scarcity of land and lack of adequate funds, the town could not build its way out of the housing problem.”
The Vail InDEED program ensures, through legal means, that the properties with deed restrictions will continue to be used as housing for people who live and work in Vail, rather than be converted for use as second homes or online rentals.
No Grand County or Moab officials have yet publicly expressed a clear opinion regarding the topic of a hypothetical Indeed Moab program and the idea has not been presented to the Grand County Council or the Moab City Council.
Moab homeowner Lisa Blackburn, along with her sister and brother, said they own properties near 400 East. Blackburn said she would consider participating in a deed restriction program “because it’s the right thing to do.”
She said she and her family struggle to come to a consensus on what to do with the land.
Blackburn continued by saying, “The true locals, who were born and raised here, feel like their town was taken away from them, so they’d like to get something out of it.”
Jones has declined to comment further than what he briefly said at the March MAHTF meeting. A program similar to Vail InDEED might never be adopted in the Moab area, and the discussions have only been preliminary.
Deed restrictions are similar to deed conditions, covenants and restrictions, which are especially common on the deeds of properties that are within homeowners’ associations to structure how a property can be styled, maintained, designed and used. Deed restrictions similarly put limits on how a property may be used, such as type of use or limiting the amount of equity a homeowner can gain on the property. Deed restrictions typically stay with a property when it changes owners.
“Through the purchase of a deed restriction, which limits the occupancy of the home to a local resident, the town is protecting and preserving existing homes in the community from simply being sold to the vacation home market,” Ruther said.
Vail Local Housing Authority chairman Steve Lyndstrom said that in 2018, the Vail InDEED program paid property owners for 21 deed restrictions. The payments bridge the gap between the residences’ market rates.
The housing problems seen by officials in Vail may in some ways appear to be more extreme than that of Moab’s, with Vail’s average home prices exceeding $1.6 million, Ruther said. Moab had an average list price of about $350,000 between all housing types in 2015.
The only key requirement set forth by the Vail InDEED program’s deed restrictions is that “the property must be occupied as a primary residence by individuals who work a minimum of 30 hours per week in Eagle County.”
Ruther said he has not spoken to any officials in Moab or Grand County about deed restrictions, but said he has visited Moab numerous times and offered an opinion.
“In my opinion, when your economy is driven by tourism, whether it be the high desert of Utah or the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the one thing we have in common is the commodity that we all buy, sell and trade….that is, exceptional customer service and outstanding guest experiences,” Ruther said. “When we lack the availability of homes for quality people (our local workforce and community) to live in, the resiliency and sustainability of our economy is in jeopardy.”
In potentially designing a similar program, the Moab area has a variety of deed restriction requirements to choose from. Grand County has 112 affordable housing purposed deed restrictions listed in the county recorder’s electronic records system (excluding seven duplicates).
Community considers what’s working in other towns
“The true locals, who were born and raised here, feel like their town was taken away from them, so they’d like to get something out of it.”