James Keating: Steamboat needs to get serious about confronting housing issues
Last week, I attended numerous housing seminars at the Colorado NAHRO conference in Vail. Housing professionals from all over the state gathered to share their issues and expertise. It was a worthwhile use of my time and my company’s resources.
At the conference were representatives from state and local governments, developers, property managers and members of the finance community. Providing housing for the most vulnerable segment of our population was, perhaps, the main thrust of the conference. Nonetheless, providing workforce housing was discussed. Vail, Breckenridge and Crested Butte all sent members of their housing communities.
If Steamboat Springs ever intends to get serious about confronting the housing affordability issues it faces, it will have to become more important to more members of our community. We will have to be creative and consider all our options.
I moved here in 1996, and residents were successfully banding together to stop a development west of town called the Steamboat 700. At that time, tenants could rent a one-bedroom apartment for about $600 a month. I made $17 an hour and rented a bedroom near Lake Catamount for $300 a month.
Currently, a one-bedroom unit at the property I manage rents for $1,525. We have no vacancies. Anyone unaware of current wage rates, please check out the many help wanted ads.
The economic and political realities of housing costs are not unique to our community. The only folks eligible to vote for the west of Steamboat annexation currently live in Steamboat. By limiting housing supply, homeowners in Steamboat ensure their property values will rise. Current homeowners imagine that building any kind of housing near Steamboat could slow their appreciation.
For about the last 20 years, RFTA, the bus system in the Aspen valley, has been running a route to Grand Junction. Many of the service workers in Aspen use this bus system to commute to work. Steamboat Springs Transit currently runs a bus to Craig and is considering expanding its routes to include other outlying communities. Is this our solution to workforce problems in Steamboat?
Many of our local employers rely heavily on the use of H2b and J1 visa workers. Even after their visas expire, many of these dedicated workers remain in our valley to provide an indispensable addition to the local workforce. This labor source is a big part of our current solution.
Could building more housing also be a solution?
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