Steamboat Springs Transit seeks short- and long-term housing solutions
Steamboat Springs Transit is currently in the process of securing seasonal housing for its winter employees, and transit staff members are also looking to build long-term housing on land the city owns.
The city works with SwedProperty, LLC, a commercial real estate developer, to find seasonal housing. While transit drivers’ housing has changed over the past several years, the city has housed drivers at Flour Mill Apartments and Main Street Apartments, though Transit Manager Jonathan Flint said the location could change again this year.
Because the city has to scramble each year to find housing for drivers, Flint said transit staff is currently working to secure full-time, permanent housing for drivers, though no firm decisions have been made.
“We’re just trying to move forward in finding something that’s more stable, that we can count on year to year,” said Kim Symalla, transit staff assistant. “It’s becoming harder every year.”
Flint said the city is seeking the most cost-effective options and hoping to build housing on land it already owns that is within walking distance of the transit office on 13th Street, where the city already owns several parcels of land.
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“The challenge with the current arrangement we have is that there’s no guarantee that next winter we’ll have housing,” Flint said. “That makes it harder to plan, and we absolutely have to have housing in order to have enough seasonal drivers to perform the service we’re trying to operate every year.”
Steamboat brings in several new drivers each winter, though the specific number varies by season. Most drivers are seasonal workers from out of town. Many work in national parks or other outdoor jobs in the summer and are looking for a job that allows them to ski or snowboard in the winter.
The starting salary for drivers is $19.17 per hour, but Flint said that is often not enough to cover the cost of renting a room in town. Even if drivers are able to find housing within their budget, Flint said many property managers are often reluctant to rent to someone who will not be in town for more than a few months.
“It used to be that you could offer a ski pass and people would come, but now, people need much more than that,” Flint said. “It’s one of those things where it’s just a reality that the cost of living here is expensive, and housing plays a big part in that.”
Flint said because most drivers spend their summers in other vacation communities, they are used to expensive housing, though many still have to turn down transit jobs after accepting them because they cannot find a place to live.
“Part of what we’re running into as well is when people are coming from a far distance, we have to be very competitive with the other resort areas that have transit systems as well,” Flint said.
While City Council has stressed that building affordable housing is a priority, especially for city employees, Flint said the project may not be pursued for years because the cost of building is currently quite high.
“What we’ve learned previously is that even if it’s not necessarily the right time to pull the trigger on the entire project, it’s good to go through the planning process,” Flint said.
Flint hopes to have all winter drivers hired and trained by October, and the city will be working with SwedProperty to decide on a temporary housing location within the next month.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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