Guest column: Steamboat Springs ballot measure 2A is a critical community investment opportunity
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Steamboat Springs has a severe housing crisis. For the last 40 years, the affordable housing demand for the local workforce has greatly outpaced the supply. But recently, the magnitude has exploded. And the gap will continue to grow until we make a significant change. So we urge you to join us in voting yes on on 2A to house our community.
In just a few weeks, voters in Steamboat Springs will decide on a short-term rental accommodations tax. Proceeds from this tax will be dedicated to increasing affordable and attainable housing for our local workforce over the next 20 years. But the choice we make in this election will affect housing in our community for many more decades.
This tax on short-term rental accommodations will help to alleviate our acute housing crisis; create a fairer tax structure between STRs, hotels and other businesses; and ensure our community has a strong and healthy workforce.
Recently, the Yampa Valley Housing Authority commissioned a housing needs assessment. It showed our current housing market needs 1,400 additional homes just to meet our current local workforce demand. So, our community has 1,400 families and individuals who work here, but don’t have a safe, stable and healthy place to live. This means entire families are living in a single bedroom; renters are living in constant fear their landlord may cancel their lease; and people are leaving town because they just can’t make it work anymore.
As we have all seen, businesses are forced to reduce hours and schools are leaving positions open because they can’t find workers. Employers from the hospital to the post office to your favorite local restaurants can’t recruit or retain staff. We cannot afford to continue losing teachers, nurses, firefighters, servers, cooks, waiters and others who help our community thrive. Voting yes on 2A will help to keep a roof over the heads of these community members and will allow us to make a meaningful investment in affordable housing.
The funds generated by 2A can only be used to increase our affordable and attainable housing stock. This can be through incentives, direct contributions or funding for critical infrastructure associated with affordable and attainable housing. And it can be used for projects throughout Steamboat Springs, including but not limited to the Brown Ranch.
Short-term rental accommodations are a critical part of our local economy. But almost one-third of our local homes are currently used as short-term rental accommodations. So, let’s call a short-term rental what it really is … a business and a mini-hotel. These approximately 3,000 homes are money-making investment properties. Their owners can make significantly more income renting them short-term than if they were rented long-term. But because of Colorado tax law, these STR businesses pay just a quarter of the property tax of a similarly valued hotel (or other business).
It’s time to close this loophole and make sure every business pays its fair share to support a diverse and vibrant Steamboat Springs economy. And 2A would not burden the property owner. The tax would be paid by those who book the STR accommodation.
Housing demand is outpacing supply. And our community needs a fair and balanced solution. Ballot issue 2A is the right way to achieve this. It will provide a critical investment that can turn the tide and keep our workforce in Steamboat Springs. If we want our economy to thrive, we need housing for our local workforce.
We have an opportunity to transform the lives of our friends and neighbors who are struggling to live and work here. We have an opportunity to invest in a strong and healthy workforce, a livable and affordable community, and a community where our businesses can grow and prosper. And isn’t that what our Steamboat Springs community is all about?
Please join us in voting yes on 2A to House Our Community. Ballots are due Nov. 8. To learn more, sign on as a supporter, volunteer or contribute to the campaign efforts, please visit HouseOurCommunity.org. Let’s house our community.
The 2A House Our Community Campaign Committee supports passage of Steamboat Springs ballot measure 2A.
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