Letter: City policy is contributing to housing issue
I think it is well past time to consider that maybe city government policies are working as intended and giving us the long predicted housing issues.
When city zoning allows 12-plus adults to stay in a house being used as a nightly rental, but only three adults if used by long-term occupants then it is city policy to encourage nightly rentals over long-term occupancy.
When city continues to spend nearly $1 million on resort marketing, then we have lots of tourists and low-paying service worker jobs. It is obviously unsustainable to subsidize tourism and their nightly rental usage of the local housing stock while expecting poorly paid service workers can compete for housing.
Fact is that, years ago, we ceased to be a tourist economy, where most of the sales taxes are being paid by tourists. A regression analysis between lodging tax revenues and sales tax revenues shows tourists are paying only 30% of local sales taxes, and that presumes locals spend the same in April and May as July and August, when the same activities, which attract tourists, are available for locals to do as well.
Putting it another way, sales tax revenues aren’t that low in April and May when lodging tax revenues are quite low. We have become an economy dominated by locals, many of whom are location neutral, who have chosen to live in Steamboat Springs because of the amenities. The pandemic caused many more people to work remotely and thus be able to select where they want to live. We would have a very good economy based upon high-income, full-time residents.
Our “housing crisis” is the absurd belief that we can have a plentiful supply of low wage service workers in local affordable housing when this is a desirable place to live that attracts high-income residents and while allocating many potential long-term housing units to nightly rentals for tourists.
If city government were to accept reality, that subsidizing tourism has too many costs to bear, then we could free up nightly rental housing for long-term occupancy. Somehow Steamboat Springs City Council has gone from considering a lift ticket tax to pay for the free bus service for the ski area to proposing a property tax to make housing more expensive. It should be an obvious economic fact that low-wage service workers can’t compete for housing with high-income, location-neutral residents.
The obvious solution is to back off subsidizing tourism, the low-wage service sector and be willing to reduce the number of low-wage workers who won’t be able to afford to live here. You can’t expect service workers, making $13 per hour, to be able to afford million dollar houses.
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