Airbnb report: Short-term rentals are good for Routt County |

Airbnb report: Short-term rentals are good for Routt County

Report draws figures from Routt, Eagle, Pitkin, Summit and Grand counties

A tax on short-term rentals in Steamboat Springs will need to move quickly, with a first reading tentatively set for Jun 20.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

According to a study paid for by the popular short-term rental online marketplace Airbnb, the negative aspects of short-term rentals are overstated and the benefits are enormous.

The report comes a week before Steamboat Springs City Council is expected to vote on policies that could limit the number of short-term rentals allowed within city limits.

Throughout discussions, city leaders have agreed that short-term rentals affect community character, but continue to debate whether placing restrictions on short-term rentals would increase the availability and affordability of housing.

Those who oppose the new restrictions have repeatedly echoed the same question: “Where’s the data?”

On Tuesday morning, May 31, Airbnb released the Colorado Short Term Rental Impact Study.

According to Airbnb, the company commissioned the study to HR&A Advisors, a real estate consulting firm out of New York, which compiled and interpreted data from Eagle, Grand, Pitkin, Summit and Routt counties.

The report cites several sources such as the United States Census Bureau, the Colorado Tourism Office and the American Community Survey, among others. Perhaps predictably, Airbnb’s survey returned favorable results for short-term rental owners.

Airbnb’s report states that short-term rentals support 1,100 jobs in Routt County, and short-term rental visitors spent approximately $65.3 million in the county in 2020, contributing $4.5 million to state and local taxes.

The report claims there are about 6,800 short-term rental units in Routt County, which is a high estimate considering Granicus — the firm hired by the city to report the number of short-term rentals in city limits — has estimated there are approximately 3,000 short-term rental units operating legally in Steamboat Springs.

For both figures to be accurate, an additional 3,800 short-term rentals would have to be operating within the rest of Routt County.

Still, according to Airbnb’s report, out of the 6,800 short-term rentals in Routt County, only 178 were comparable to workforce housing in 2021.

The study defined “comparable to workforce housing” as units estimated to cost less than $150 a day and that were unoccupied for at least half of the month.

Also, the number of bedrooms was not factored into the average daily rate, potentially leaving out units that would cost less than $150 a day if rent were split per bedroom.

The report further states that between 2019 and 2021, only 46 potential workforce units became short-term rentals. Still for some people, that is a pretty high number.

“Even assuming their numbers are right, 50 units in these mountain communities is a lot of units when you factor in home occupancy rates, limited land/developable area, and development costs,” said Wendy Sullivan, principal of WSW Consulting, after reading the report.

Airbnb’s report draws several conclusions, including the argument that the housing crisis in Routt County and other ski towns should be attributed to a lack of housing supply rather than an abundance of short-term rentals.

“For example, in Steamboat Springs, construction of multifamily buildings has been stagnant since 2010, increasing only recently,” the report reads.

According to Sullivan and Steamboat Springs Planning and Community Development Director Rebecca Bessey, the lack of developable land in Steamboat and many other ski towns makes keeping pace with demand difficult, especially in the past few years as demand has been soaring.

Put together by The Steamboat Group Real Estate, the Steamboat Springs 2022 Real Estate First Quarter Report suggests that supply would not likely reach the current level of demand.

“Even if inventory were three times higher, it likely wouldn’t have been enough to provide choices for all of the buyers we are seeing for local properties,” the quarterly report states.

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