Letter: It’s time to talk about Steamboat’s housing crisis
COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the economies of most towns in the country but may have specifically struck towns that rely on tourism the hardest. However, as tempting as it is to focus on opening back up and ramping up tourism again, local officials in Steamboat Springs are eventually going to have to realize that an economy based solely on tourism is eventually going to fail and for more reasons than the occasional upset caused by unexpected disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s time to talk about the fact that Steamboat has a housing crisis, and the effects are starting to be felt not only by locals but by local businesses as well (two articles were published in the past week regarding the housing crisis caused by short-term rentals and the challenges of local businesses not being able to recruit employees).
More and more rental properties are converting to the short-term, AirBnB rental model. New homes are being bought specifically to be used for that purpose. These activities are creating two problems. First, there are less rental properties available for individuals living and working full time in this community. Those that do come available are priced such that only the most affluent of locals could afford them to begin with.
As a secondary issue, as the housing shortage and price gouging become more publicly apparent, workers are no longer seeking out employment that would bring them to the area. After all, what good is having a job if you cannot find a decent and affordable place to live?
If Steamboat and Routt County elected officials continue to pander to the cash cows of the tourism and short-term rental industries and ignore the needs of their permanent and even seasonal citizens, the economy they are trying to protect is going to crash. It is not a question of if, but when. Housing will continue to become more costly and more scarce. Fewer and fewer potential citizens will see Steamboat Springs as a viable option for a place to call home. Dissatisfaction will spread even amongst tourists as services are cut or start to experience lengthy delays due to staffing shortages.
It’s past time to start putting quotas and restrictions on the housing market. Policies need to be enacted to protect housing, affordable housing for Steamboat’s citizens, or soon there will be no citizens left to keep the tourism industry alive.
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