Steamboat voters favor STR tax by a wide margin |

Steamboat voters favor STR tax by a wide margin

The proposed 9% tax on short-term rentals in Steamboat Springs looks as if it will pass.

As of 9:24 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, ballot measure 2A was leading with 4,060 votes in favor and 2,413 votes against — a 62.7% to 37.3% margin.

“I think it shows the community stepped up, and it proves that they value our working locals,” said Andrew Beckler, a spokesperson for House Our Community, the nonprofit group that was created to support the passage of 2A.

Short-term rentals such as those offered on websites like Airbnb and VRBO are defined as residential dwellings that are rented out for less than 30 days at a time. Steamboat Springs’ ballot measure 2A would put revenue generated by the short-term rental tax toward “affordable and attainable” workforce housing projects, including the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s Brown Ranch development. 

A group opposing the tax, Citizens for Responsible Housing Policies, has argued that the tax will adversely affect Steamboat’s tourism economy to fund the Brown Ranch project.

“My hope is that people realize that the Brown Ranch is not going to meet our needs in the future,” said Robin Craigen, CEO of Moving Mountains and vice president of the Steamboat Community Preservation Alliance, which is closely tied to the group opposing 2A. “It was going to take too long in the short term and it’s not the right solution for Steamboat.”

But supporters of the tax measure say the biggest risk to Steamboat’s economy is the lack of workforce housing, and they see the 9% tax as a way of pooling money from the estimated 3,000 short-term rentals in the city toward developments that expand Steamboat’s housing inventory.

“First and foremost, it means a huge investment in affordable housing for working locals in Steamboat,” Beckler said. “And secondly — a fair tax structure.”

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City officials estimate the tax would yield around $14 million in the first year, but opponents have insisted higher costs for short-term rental stays will drive tourism elsewhere and offset the city’s increase in tax revenue. 

Additionally, supporters of 2A have argued that short-term rentals are exploiting a tax loophole by paying the 7% residential property tax instead of the 29% commercial property tax hotels pay. 2A supporters have also pointed out that many other mountain towns in Colorado, such as Aspen, Dillon, Grand Junction and Carbondale, are seeking to levy new taxes on short-term rentals, and Steamboat’s tax would be in line with many competing resorts. 

Beckler said supporters of 2A are happy about Tuesday night’s results, but he added that this is just the beginning.

“While we’re incredibly happy with the results tonight, there’s still a lot of work ahead that has to be done,” Beckler said. “This just ensures that we have a significant amount of funding to help this process begin and help turn our housing crisis around. Now we just have to put it to good use.”

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