Letter: Workforce housing is our No. 1 issue
Our community has an acute shortage of housing affordable to most of our workforce. I hear stories of businesses hiring and then losing their new employees due to an inability to find housing. Young people born and raised in Routt County cannot settle here. Teachers, medical personnel, firefighters, grocery store employees, small businesses, nonprofits, restaurant staff, and city and county employees are all affected. Our current housing need for those who work and live here is about 1,400 homes.
There is a huge gap between housing inventory and housing need, and between income and the price of housing. Currently, there are about 50 homes on the market in all of Routt County under $1 million and 16 homes under $500,000. This past summer the inventory was slightly higher but the point remains. This lack of housing units has driven up listing prices and will continue to do so until inventory increases. In addition to the high price of homes, many have annual HOA fees in the thousands; mobile homes have expensive ground rents; and many homes need thousands of dollars in renovations. While there are literally thousands of vacation rentals in Steamboat Springs. The few units for long-term rent are sky-high.
There are several national economic forces, largely out of our control, that have brought about this situation. However, there is one force that is local: 30% of our local housing is short-term rentals (less than 30 days). These units are off the market, for long-term rental or sale. Owners of short-term rentals pay a fraction of the property taxes of commercial hotels yet serve the same clientele.
A proposal for garnering funds to build affordable and attainable housing in Steamboat Springs, and on the newly acquired 536 acres in Routt County known as Brown Ranch, will appear on your ballot as ballot measure 2A. 2A levies a 9% accommodation city tax on income from short-term rental units. By passing 2A, Steamboat Springs will raise a projected $14 million per year over the next 20 years dedicated to affordable and attainable housing restricted to our local workforce. After 20 years, this tax will sunset. By voting yes on 2A, you will help solve our local housing shortage. Workforce housing is essential to keeping our local economy alive. Vote yes on 2A.
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