New coalition forms to support proposed STR tax
With only two months until Nov. 8, when Steamboat Springs voters will decide on a 9% excise tax on short-term rentals, a new coalition plans to campaign in support of the tax’s passage.
House Our Community officially launched Wednesday, Aug. 7, and the new group describes itself as “local volunteers eager to help make housing more affordable for Steamboat residents.”
Andrew Beckler, the owner of GrassSticks, a local company that produces ski poles made from bamboo, is working as a spokesperson for the campaign.
“(Short-term rentals) are running commercial operations and do not pay commercial property taxes like I do for my business,” Beckler wrote in a news release. “In fact, a hotel or any commercial business pays more than four times the taxes a STR currently pays.”
Beckler is referring to the disparity between the 7% residential property tax rate compared to the 29% commercial property tax rate.
The short-term rental tax was written to help fund “affordable and attainable” housing projects such as the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s Brown Ranch development.
Opponents of the tax argue that short-term rentals are a vital resource to the economy in Steamboat Springs, and taxing them at such a high rate will make the town less competitive with other resort communities.
“It’s not too late to rethink this massive tax increase that will be levied on loyal visitors who return each year with their families to fill our restaurants and bars,” said Dan Merritts, president of the Steamboat Community Preservation Alliance, a local coalition that has formed in opposition to the short-term rental tax.
Including existing accommodations and sales taxes of 11.4% on short-term rentals, the 9% tax increase would bring the total levy on short-term rentals to 20.4%, which would be among the highest in the state. However, other resort towns such as Aspen are also sending short-term rental taxes to the ballot.
If Aspen’s 10% tax on short-term rentals passes, the city’s total tax rate would be 24.4%.
Supporters of the tax argue that, as more municipalities levy taxes on short-term rentals, tax rates on short-term rentals won’t be much of a factor in Steamboat’s ability to compete for tourists.
Still, opponents to the tax argue that taking money out of tourists’ pockets will also take money from the local economy, regardless of what other resort towns do.
Beckler said he felt motivated to join House Our Community because he believes the lack of housing in Steamboat is the biggest threat to Steamboat’s economy and added that the estimated 3,000 short-term rentals in Steamboat represent about one-third of the town’s housing inventory.
“I’m also a part of the local coalition of outdoor recreation businesses in town,” Beckler said. “Speaking with all of them, everyone’s main concern is hiring and retention right now, and that is purely due to housing.”
To reach Spencer Powell, call 970-871-4229 or email him at spowell@SteamboatPilot.com
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