Our View: Hotel conversions are an OK immediate housing solution but not long term | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Hotel conversions are an OK immediate housing solution but not long term

Steamboat Pilot & Today Editorial Board

Where are our workers going to live? That’s the question at the precipice of another ski season. But it’s a question that should linger beyond the scope and timing of our tourism industry.

Rushing to answer that question, developers purchased several hotels in Steamboat Springs to use them as dormitory-style housing amid the local housing crisis — spurred by low inventory of long-term rentals and rising costs.

Last week, the city of Steamboat granted final approval for two out-of-town developers to turn Steamboat Hotel and Steamboat Mountain Lodge into workforce units. Still waiting on closing is local developer Ski Town Commercial, which plans to do the same with the Hampton Inn & Suites and Fairfield Inn.

We commend the quick response by the city and private sector to find an interim solution to the short-term need, but we can still see pain points along the way. Namely, how will taking 252 units from the lodging market impact tourists, and will that lead to a short-term rental tug-of-war for the city? With Opening Day around the corner, this raises more questions than there are answers.

At a glance

At issue: Several developers are working on hotel-to-dormitory projects to mitigate the ongoing workforce housing crisis.

Our View: These conversions are a fine temporary solution, but they should be just that. The community needs to continue a determined search for more long-term workforce housing solutions.

Editorial Board

• Logan Molen, publisher

• Lisa Schlichtman, editor

• Bryce Martin, assistant editor and digital engagement editor

• Ana Gomez, community representative

• Kelly McElfish, community representative

Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.

Ski Town Commercial was behind other motel-to-dormitory conversions in the past. In 2015, Ski Town purchased the former Iron Horse Inn and created the Flour Mill apartments. In 2018, it did the same with the former Alpiner Lodge, which is now Main Street Apartments. While Steamboat has seen these kinds of projects before, these current iterations deal with a larger amount of units and thus a larger impact.

With these moves, a smaller inventory of hotel units could propel room rates to increase for visitors and possibly lead to greater tourist demand for local vacation-home rentals. But that inventory, too, is in question if the city moves forward with tighter restrictions on short-term rentals.

The issue now seems to be a Catch-22. How will the city stoke a balance with regulation of short-term rentals? It’s inching toward a shift in hotels being for workers with houses being for tourists.

From a revenue management perspective, this loss of hotel rooms, and therefore increase in hotel room prices, could inadvertently exclude a population of skiers looking for budget-friendly lodging. Hotels traditionally serve that niche, being more affordable than luxury vacation home rentals.

Another consideration is what kind of quality of life these workers will have living in a hotel room for six months. It might be fine for some people, and it’s designed to be temporary. It’s not really a feasible solution for year-round workers. These changes can create a revolving door of seasonal workers, instead of these workers coming here, integrating into the community and establishing roots.

In recent memory, Steamboat has never experienced a worker shortage as severe as what’s been caused by the pandemic and housing crisis. The interconnectedness of these issues will further be seen as the new season commences.

While most people invoke the Brown Ranch development as solving the housing crisis, that’s only a part of the solution — and one that’s years down the road. These hotel conversions, while serving as a reasonable immediate solution, must remain temporary. We implore developers, local officials, employers and the community to consider true long-term solutions on how to house our local workforce while treating them as part of our community.

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