The Village of Wintergreen brought nearly 200 affordable rental units to Keystone when it opened. Workforce housing is limited in Summit County, and local leaders are now considering ways to resolve what they call a crisis.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography

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Summit County’s housing problem is nothing new, but if you’ve been one of the many residents trying to find housing over the past year, it hasn’t been an easy task.

County officials gathered on Thursday April 29 to listen to a presentation on housing needs by the Summit Combined Housing Authority. Consulting firm in economic systems and planning presented their findings after conducting a housing study from March 2019 to March 2020. After a year of delay due to COVID-19, economic and planning systems representatives David Schwartz and Rachel Shindman presented the data, which highlighted highlight the current housing needs in the area.

A look at Summit’s hevacuation

Overall, Shindman said 70% of the county’s housing supply is vacant and 30% is occupied. From 2010 to 2018, which was the most recent data available when the study was commissioned, Shindman said those percentages were exacerbated because long-term homes were not added to the market.

The problem has been compounded by the fact that non-residents are driving up the price of local home sales. Between 2016 and 2018, non-residents bought 35% of the new inventory on the market.

“What we’re seeing, particularly in selling prices, is that this level of second home ownership really drives up prices locally and leaves locals and labor behind and often pushes labor. “Work outside the county,” said Shindman mentioned.

So to what extent do short-term rentals play a role? According to Shindman, this is definitely a contributing factor.

“Using data from 2019, there were nearly 10,000 units listed for short-term rental in the county, which is roughly a third of the total inventory and half of the vacant inventory,” he said. she declared. “It also has an impact on the availability and affordability of housing for residents.”

The Village of Wintergreen brought nearly 200 affordable rental units to Keystone when it opened.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography

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A look at Summit’s hrequest evicted

So how many people are vying for long-term rental housing and buying a home? In addition to examining the county’s housing supply, the report included information on the county’s demand, particularly with respect to its workforce.

Shindman said that over the nearly 20 years, employment in the county has grown, especially in the industry year-round. The seasonal workforce has remained constant during this time, she said.

This growth is not distributed evenly across industries. Shindman said that in 2018 the county “returned to its pre-recession peak employment.” Most of these gains were in the arts, entertainment, recreation and health care. Sectors such as retail, accommodation and food services have remained relatively stagnant. Construction, IT, finance and real estate have all declined in overall employment since 2001.

“When we look at these industries, we look at the average salary associated with them, and we see an increase in low-wage jobs,” Shindman said. “That, combined with increased pressure on prices and lower inventory, we can see how all of these puzzle pieces fit together.”

But what about the retiring workforce? Shindman said this population places additional demand on the county’s housing needs, especially because the number of people 65 and over in the county has quadrupled since 2000.

“Much of this population is already overburdened with costs,” said Shindman. “There are two ways for this to move forward in the future: either these people are going to move to a fixed income, or they already have a fixed income, so the pressure for them to pay for their housing will get worse. .

“Or the pressure to continue working later and later will continue to generate income to pay a higher cost of housing. It also has an impact on the type of accommodation requested, whether it is more accessible, closer to the city, (a) smaller accommodation. “

The Village of Wintergreen brought nearly 200 affordable rental units to Keystone when it opened.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography

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HHow many units does Summit need?

Schwartz, of Economic & Planning Systems, said these housing gaps can result from a lack of inventory, limited land and a lack of availability due to second home ownership or l use of dwellings as short-term rentals. These gaps are where housing units are needed most.

Schwartz said Summit, Eagle and Lake counties all lack housing to meet their workforce demands. The data he presented is based on year-round labor only and does not include seasonal labor requirements.

Currently, Grand, Clear Creek and Park counties act as housing providers for neighboring counties experiencing housing shortages.

According to the report, the region, which includes Summit and four neighboring countries, has a gap of 2,400 units, a number that is expected to double by 2023.

Taking into account affordable sales and rental projects currently under construction or already completed, Schwartz said the Summit County gap is 725 units. Over the next five years, that number is expected to climb to nearly 2,400 units. This number only takes into account affordable projects in March 2020 and does not include projects announced afterwards.

In the county itself, Schwartz and his team determined that the areas of Breckenridge, Blue River, Frisco and Copper Mountain were in need of housing the most.

The Village of Wintergreen brought nearly 200 affordable rental units to Keystone when it opened.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography

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Residents’ housing preferences

In addition to collecting data on the county’s housing market, Economic & Planning Systems also conducted a survey to gather information on the preferences and needs of certain populations.

In this survey, 1,775 responses were compiled – 57% of landlords and 40% of tenants – with nearly a third of respondents stating that they spend more than 30% of their income on housing and 39% stating that they are “overburdened with costs. Schwartz mentioned.

For the presentation, Schwartz grouped respondents into three categories: working adults with children, working adults without children, and adults who are or are about to retire. Schwartz said it was about identifying needs and preferences among different groups.

According to the survey, working adults with children are looking for two to three bedrooms and two bathrooms with privacy and space for their family. Working adults without children are looking for two bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms with storage and pet friendly environments. Retired or soon to be retired adults are looking for two bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms with storage and quality finishes. This group also wants to be closer to the city.

Next steps

At the end of the presentation, Summit County Commissioners Elisabeth Lawrence and Tamara Pogue asked Schwartz and Shindman what the county’s next step should be to start alleviating the housing problem. Lawrence proposed a later meeting so county officials could start thinking about strategies to implement in the near future.

Lawrence also suggested introducing some sort of incentive that would encourage short-term owners to switch their units to long-term rentals.

Silverthorne Mayor Ann-Marie Sandquist also raised the idea of ​​taxing short-term rental properties as commercial properties. She noted that this was opposed by the local real estate industry and that a similar idea died in the state legislature last year.

Breckenridge City Manager Rick Holman also expressed support for unifying the cities and county to begin a collaborative effort to tackle the problem. Holman noted that short-term landlords aren’t “the bad guy,” and Amy Priegel, executive director of Summit Combined Housing Authority, echoed his thoughts.

“One point I want to make is that we’re not saying second home owners are bad,” she said. “We’re not saying short-term rentals are bad. What we’re trying to do is find that balance. “

The report ended in March 2020 and does not include the impacts of the pandemic, which also exacerbated the problem. To understand all of these effects, Priegel said the Northwestern Colorado Council of Governments is conducting its own study to determine the impact of the virus on resort communities. Priegel said the report’s findings would be available in June.


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