From the Chamber: Community faces issues with housing, child care |

From the Chamber: Community faces issues with housing, child care

Kara Stoller
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Kara Stoller
John F. Russell

A few weeks ago, our community had the opportunity to hear a presentation the Steamboat Springs Chamber helped organize on emerging trends in the Colorado economy. Presented by Alison Felix, vice president and Denver branch executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, the presentation included data from the national, state and local level.

Felix shared information on timely and relevant topics such as payroll, net migration, residential construction permits, home pricing, exports, oil production and pricing, and net farm income. 

Felix also shared an update on unemployment rates. As of April, the unemployment rate across the U.S. was 3.6%. As of March, Colorado’s unemployment rate was 3.5% and Routt County’s was 2.4%. 

The Steamboat Springs Chamber is working to find ways for employers to continue to succeed in a time when retaining and recruiting top talent is a major challenge. We can’t do this work alone, however, nor do we want to.

Collaborating and convening are two of our main functions in supporting business success. We need to hear a wide range of perspectives, and we know that creative solutions to challenges are found when many people work together. 

Two major challenges our community is facing in terms of retaining and recruiting talent at all levels of income is housing and child care. 

Child care providers in Routt County are top notch. Every parent I speak to raves about wherever their children went or currently are going. I am no different. I adore the people who have cared for and continue to care for my daughter and couldn’t imagine her being in better hands while my husband and I are at work.

The challenges related to child care are availability and affordability. Availability is especially difficult for the birth to 3-year-old slots. Not all families seek child care but a significant number are and businesses need more people to have the option to stay in the workforce.  

Affordability is a challenge for the parents but also for the providers. Providers try to have the lowest costs possible but that is difficult while meeting the multitude of state mandated regulations and requirements. The cost of having one child, and more so two, in child care often pushes one parent to stay at home, again compounding the challenges businesses have in retaining employees. 

I have been working with passionate people on the First Impressions Council to identify solutions to key child care challenges such as affordability and availability. Specifically, I am working with a subcommittee to create family-friendly employee policy statements which will help businesses better support their current employees and attract new employees. Employees will have reassurance that their employer supports them in all aspects of their lives and enable the flexibility to be working parents. 

Regarding housing, there is a major shortage of options for the area workforce. The Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s 2018 annual report stated the 2018 gap in supply has increased for low income and entry level since 2016. The Housing Authority is working hard to increase the supply of low-income units. 

The city of Steamboat Springs worked for three years on another solution to the housing shortage, the West Steamboat Neighborhoods annexation. Steamboat Springs City Council approved the annexation agreement for the proposed entry-level and move-up housing development.

The development also includes a land donation to the Housing Authority which will allow the organization to expand their inventory. The Steamboat Springs School District will receive 12 acres of land through this annexation, enabling the district to build another much-needed school.    

Along with the Chamber board of directors, I support this annexation and the housing options it will make available for our friends, family, co-workers and neighbors.

While we work on programs and policies, I ask you to do two things: support local businesses by buying local, enabling them to further support employees with children and vote “yes” on the annexation ballot. Be a part of continuing to make Steamboat Springs a welcoming and thriving place to live and work.  

Kara Stoller is the CEO of Steamboat Springs Chamber.

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