Communities in the NWCCOG region proactively working on creative solutions to the housing crisis
Housing has always been a challenge in our region's amenity-rich, desirable towns where land is scarce, housing costs are high, and the economy is dominated by service jobs where pay is low. The pandemic has added a new dynamic to this scenario in that the norm of remote work has allowed in-migration of people with higher salaries and wealth to purchase real estate at record prices, outbidding local workforce, and reducing inventory for workforce housing rental properties. The pandemic also brought investors to the region looking to purchase properties to convert into short term vacation rentals, many of which have traditionally used for rental housing for the workforce. Now, with supply low and demand high, our region is facing a housing crisis which impacts every sector.

The region’s leaders have been grappling with this a serious problem over the last year: if the workforce cannot find affordable housing, they may be forced to leave the area. If they leave the area, businesses cannot fully staff their businesses, which has resulted in reduced hours, reduced services offered, and in some cases a decrease in customer service and quality leading to unhappy visitors and locals alike. Some businesses have been forced to close altogether.

Our region’s leaders tackled this challenge head-on, rolled up their sleeves, thought “out of the box” to come up with solutions to this housing problem. Community meetings and stakeholder engagement sessions were held, and conversations about housing happened almost daily. Some of the ideas proposed were not popular. And it remains to be seen whether or not these strategies will actually work. But the “success story” is that local leaders took action, and quickly. Another success is the strong showing of community recognition of the problem and support for solutions with several communities voting in support of taxes to create dedicated funding of housing projects. Further, recently there have been many collaborative efforts involving all levels of government, the business community, and neighboring communities working together on solutions.

Here are some examples of the initiatives and strategies put into place by our region's leaders over the last year:
"Out of the Box" Ideas

Eagle County "Bold Housing Moves"
Eagle County Board of Commissioners took a bold step toward addressing the local housing crisis by approving a supplemental budget that transfers $5.4 million from the county’s general fund to its housing fund. The Eagle County BOCC also agreed to fund a series of programs — officially called "Bold Housing Moves" — designed to chip away at the local housing issue. Some of these bold moves include a cash-offer assistance program; buy-down deed restriction program; offering low/no-interest loans to homeowners to build accessory dwelling units to be rented to local workforce; and master leases for Eagle County staff. All the "Bold Housing Moves" ideas proposed by Eagle County Housing can be found HERE.

Summit County and Breckenridge officials toured the Fading West Development facility and neighborhood in Buena Vista this summer. Fading West has a facility in Buena Vista which manufactures and produces modular homes. Overall, the consensus was that these homes could be an extremely impactful strategy to temper the affordable housing issue in the county within the next year or so.

A collaborative effort is underway in Pitkin County to explore the feasibility of using USFS parcels in Aspen and El Jebel for affordable housing. Colorado Mountain College, the City of Aspen, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, Aspen Valley Hospital and Aspen School District are chipping in $12,500 apiece for a feasibility study each partner’s housing needs and conduct a test fit of these needs in relationship to the parcels to see if developing housing would meet those needs. The 2018 Farm Bill passed by U.S. Congress allows the Forest Service to lease administrative sites for the benefit of the local ranger district. In theory, the Forest Service would lease the remaining 2.13 acres to the local governments for housing. Some amount of housing would be dedicated to Forest Service employees.

Eagle County is considering a plan to develop an undetermined amount of housing for seniors on the former USFS tree farm site in El Jebel. There is an option of selling or leasing a portion of this land to Eagle County. While no proposal is imminent, the intent is to acquire the land. The Town of Basalt is also a potential partner in this project.

Officials with Dillon, Summit County and the U.S. Forest Service continue to work together in hopes of developing the Summit County Road 51 workforce housing project, a nontraditional concept that would allow county and town officials to build housing units on annexed Forest Service land for in-kind considerations, like housing.

The City of Steamboat Springs City Council Monday approved on first reading an ordinance to convert rooms at the former Steamboat Hotel and Steamboat Mountain Lodge to workforce housing units for Steamboat Resort employees. For the 2021-22 season, the properties will be used as dormitory housing, with two people sharing a room and a communal kitchen shared between several rooms.

The Town of Vail's InDEED Program is a deed restriction purchase program created to incentivize homeowners and real estate buyers/sellers to deed restrict their property. The Town’s goal is to maintain and sustain community for residents especially for employee residential housing. The town is offering financial payments to homeowners to deed restrict their property to help to achieve this goal for the community. Homeowners may use the funds received from the sale of the deed restriction for any purpose.
Proposed public policy changes to help spur development of affordable housing

Several of the region's communities are proposing code changes to support housing. Summit County planners recently prosed several "tweaks" to the code including adjusting the maximum rental rates for workforce housing; offering more flexibility for projects that align with county goals; adjusting the minimum unit size and amenities required for affordable housing projects; adding standards for shared-amenity housing; and adding standards for tiny houses.

The Town of Eagle County Planning and Zoning commission recently held a public hearing to discuss changes to the town’s “Future Land Use Map” and zoning categories contained in the Elevate Eagle Comprehensive Plan. Nearly all of these changes centered around one key issue as officials look to the future of the town: housing. More specifically, the proposed changes would seemingly support more affordable and a more diverse array of residential development.

Town of Dillon staff has been working on new policies and options for accessory dwelling units at the Dillon Town Council’s direction since early August. The latest concept proposed would include covering the development and tap fees for single-family homeowners willing to build a deed-restricted accessory unit. This would be funded by the county-wide housing 5A funds, which was just approved by voters to continue for anther 20 years. The value of this for a homeowner constructing a 2 bedroom, 2 bath could add up to about $14,000. The code already requires that accessory dwelling units be deed restricted to allow only long-term rentals greater than six months., but the council proposed removing the lease-length restriction entirely in favor of simply requiring the tenant to be a member of the workforce. Once the program kicks off, the town will also allow individuals who have an existing accessory dwelling unit on their property to get reimbursed for the fees in exchange for an updated deed restriction.

The Town of Breckenridge looks to change accessory dwelling unit code to encourage additional workforce housing. The Breckenridge Town Council recently passed on first reading updates to its accessory dwelling unit policies, adding incentives in the planning process for folks who add the units to their properties and streamlining the review process.
Incentives to Entice Conversion of Short-Term to Long-Term Rentals

The Town of Winter Park is developing a new program that would pay cash to convert short-term rentals into workforce housing. This program would offer cash to short-term rental owners who would change to offering six-month or year-long leases for qualifying workforce. The town would dedicate $325,000 for the program. The town believes that this program could generate workforce housing units in the very near future and would have a larger and faster impact than the town continuing to pursue the acquisition of existing buildings or property development. The program would offer $5,000 for six month leases for studios and one-bedroom units; $10,000 for year leases for studios and one-bedrooms; $10,000 for six month leases for two-bedrooms and three-bedrooms; $20,000 for year leases for two-bedrooms and three-bedrooms. The payments would be up-front and in addition to any rental income.

Lease to Locals Program -Summit County and Town of Breckenridge
The Lease to Locals pilot incentive program offers financial incentive to owners of legally licenses short-term rental units to enter into a lease with a local worker. Qualifying tenants are required to work at least 30 hours per week for an employer based in Summit County. For leases signed on or before December 1, property owners were eligible to earn up to $13,000 for a seasonal lease and up to $24,000 for a long-term lease. Property managers can earn up to $2,700 per unit in addition to what the property owner receives. There are also additional incentives worth up to $40,000 for property managers who refer multiple units. The goal of the pilot program is to convert up to 100 units this winter and build on the program for summer 2022.

Summit County Housing Works Initiative
The Housing Works program connects Summit County workers in need of housing with landlords willing to convert their vacation or short-term rental properties into long-term housing. This program, supported by the Summit Foundation, works to connect with property owners who would be willing to convert their short-term, former owner-occupied or newly purchased properties into long-term rentals. Rents are capped at $1,500 for one bedrooms or studios, $2,100 for two-bedroom units and $2,600 for three-bedroom units.

The Town of Frisco is getting into the financial incentives game with its Housing Locals Program . This new pilot program offers incentives for converting short-term rentals into long-term rentals, similar to a new program in Breckenridge and Summit County.
Community Support for Investment in Affordable Housing

Summit County voters approve Summit Combined Housing Authority sales tax for another 20 years

The shortage of affordable housing in Summit County has been felt by virtually every sector of the community, which is why the Summit Combined Housing Authority put its 0.6% 20-year sales tax measure (5A) on the ballot six years before it’s set to sunset. Summit County voters approved the tax’s extension on election day this past November, meaning instead of it sunsetting in 2027, it’ll now go through 2047.

So far, the 5A measure, which was originally passed in 2016, has accrued a total of $47 million collectively between the county and towns. The town of Dillon has spent some of its money on its Summit County Road 51 workforce housing project in collaboration with Summit County and the U.S. Forest Service. The town of Silverthorne has spent most of its money on the Smith Ranch workforce housing development. The town of Breckenridge has spent some of its money on its Blue 52 townhomes and Alta Verde apartments. The town of Frisco spent some of its money on its Mary Ruth Place project and a housing coordinator position. Summit County has spent some of its money on Huron Landing and Dillon Valley Vistas.
Some of the projects that will likely get funding in the future include:
  • Dillon’s Summit County Road 51 workforce housing project
  • The build-out of Silverthorne’s Smith Ranch workforce housing development
  • Further development of Breckenridge’s Alta Verde and Block 11 apartments
  • Frisco’s 619 Granite St. housing development
  • Summit County’s Lake Hill development and additional master leases of hotels

Town of Avon voters approved a tax on short-term rentals in the town. The tax is estimated to generate between $1 million and $1.5 million in the first year for community housing initiatives and housing-related activities in the town. The hope for this tax is that it will not only enable Avon to further its current community housing plans and projects — such as expanding and furthering Mi Casa Avon and the development of town-owned land — but it will enable the town to participate in partnerships with Eagle County municipalities for new projects across the valley as well as be leveraged to obtain state and federal housing funds.

In The Town of Vail, voters approved a .5% sales tax increase. This tax could raise more than $4 million in its first year for housing. The tax is estimated to bring in about $4.3 million annually. The money would be used to fund things like the town’s InDeed program as well as new developments.
Northwest Colorado Council of Governments
Economic Development District |