‘Why are we even still here?’ Rent hikes at Steamboat’s affordable options are pushing tenants to the edge

The Flour Mill apartments provide workforce housing in Steamboat Springs. In February, the property was sold to Birge and Held, a company based out of Indianapolis.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 10:15 a.m. to accurately describe Ski Town Commercial as the former property manager at the Flour Mill and Main Street apartment complexes.

Upsurges in rent are aren’t new to Steamboat Springs, yet as some of the most affordable housing options such as Mountain Village Apartments and Flour Mill Apartments raise their monthly price, the presence of entry-level, moderately priced housing options in town might become a thing of the past. 

Kaitlyn Morris, who lives in Mountain Village, recently learned her rent is going up by $400.

Morris shares a story that is similar to many other nomads who decided to make Steamboat their long-term home. She worked seasonally in places like Alaska and Olympic National Park before moving to Steamboat to work as a host at Hazie’s Restaurant for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. 

Morris moved into a shared room in the resort’s employee housing complex, The Ponds at Steamboat, which has long functioned as an important base camp for seasonal workers from all over the world.

The first time Morris moved out of The Ponds, she was back after a few months after the property she rented was sold. Then in 2019, stability seemed within reach when Morris and two of her friends were approved to sign a long-term lease on a $2300-per-month three-bedroom apartment at Mountain Village, which due to its comparably low rates, is a popular housing option for those new to town or moving out of employee housing.

“We couldn’t believe we actually got this place,” Morris said. “We were like, ‘We have the money, come on let’s sign it. It’s ours.’”

Morris doesn’t work for the resort anymore. She started her own cleaning company called Spring Cleaners LLC, but said that after covering rent and other expenses, she makes just a few hundred dollars extra for savings.

Morris’s rent at Mountain Village went up to $2500 in 2021, and recently Morris and her roommates were told by other tenants their rent would be going up by another $400 when they resign their lease in October.

Morris said her boyfriend is moving in soon to help offset the higher rent, but the hike still stings.

“Me and my boyfriend were like, ‘why are we even still here?’” Morris said. “If they raise it again next year, that’ll probably be it.” 

Despite the growing price tag, Morris said Mountain Village still feels like her only option. 

“We’ve looked, but it’s impossible to find anything that’s cheaper, that allows pets, or is available and not snatched up the second it’s posted,” she said.

The Flour Mill Apartments and Main Street Apartments, which are also popular entry-level housing options increased their rents earlier this year after being bought by Birge and Held, a private equity real estate investment firm based in Indianapolis, Indiana which manages over 25,000 units and $4 billion in assets. 

“They raised everyone’s rent $300 or $400 per person,” said Emily Gerde, a tenant at Main Street Apartments and manages tenant relations for Ski Town Commercial, the developer and previous property manager for the Flour Mill and Main Street apartment complexes. “Everyone who was here under us is moving out to other locations.” 

Gerde said her company charged between $1400-$1600 for studio apartments depending on how recently the units were remodeled, but said studios at both complexes went up to around $1,900 under the new owners. All utilities were included under the previous owners’ price as well, she said, but soon tenants will be charged $175 as a flat utility fee.

“They used to be hotel rooms — they’re not individually metered,” Gerde said. “The new company just made up a random arbitrary number of how much utilities is on top of rent. It’s not according to usage.”

Gerde said the new owners haven’t done any remodeling or cleaning to warrant the price increase, and accuses them of being out of touch with their tenants. 

To demonstrate her point, Gerde said the website for Main Street Apartments features a photo of a mountain that isn’t even in Steamboat. She was referring to a photo of the Maroon Bells near Aspen that is featured in the website’s “neighborhood” tab, which says, “residents are also near Quarry Mountain, which offers unparalleled views.” 

A photo of the Maroon Bells near Aspen appears on the neighborhood tab of the Main Street Apartments website.
Main Street Apartments website/Screenshot

According to Gerde, the new owners only employ one liaison to address the concerns of the tenants. 

“One liaison for probably around 200 units,” Gerde said. “I mean he’s not capable, he can’t keep up.”

Gerde said several tenants she knows reported the new owners and are considering taking legal action. 

Property managers at Mountain Village, Flour Mill Apartments and Main Street Apartments did not respond to questions from the Pilot & Today before the printing of this article.

Jon Wade, a co-founder of The Steamboat Group, said the swelling of Steamboat’s rental rates is basic supply and demand, and a symptom of high property values.

“It benefits me, obviously, but I don’t take pleasure in it because it makes it harder for locals,” Wade said. “To me, we’re a community. That’s why we’re special.”

Wade said even though wages have gone up in Steamboat, they have been outpaced by the rise of rental rates. He believes housing projects that expand Steamboat’s inventory, such as the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s Brown Ranch, should help Steamboat’s housing crisis. 

Higher property insurance premiums are also impacting the overhead costs of renting out homes, according to Dax Mattox, an insurance agent for State Farm, who said high prices for raw building materials has driven up the rebuild costs of properties, meaning property owners must expand their coverage if they want their policies to cover the full cost of a rebuild in the event of a disaster. 

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