Workforce housing has been identified as the primary public policy in the Mountain West region. We know housing is a fundamental challenge to our community labor challenges and Eagle County livability.
Studies including the report on mountain migration and regional report on workforce housing have been carried out in recent years. Many communities have taken a more active role with regard to short-term rentals; local communities, including Vail, Avon and Minturn, have taken an active regulatory role and are exploring additional rules and regulations.
Outside magazine has a compelling article titled “How to Save a Ski Resort” which frames the impacts of short-term rentals in ski resort communities. The author insists on what we already know: this is not a local problem. The housing crisis for residents is an issue throughout Rocky Mountain West.
From the article: “It was so difficult to find affordable housing in town that there weren’t enough people to work in town. The headlines have been making headlines all summer:
“Housing in Jackson: is it a crisis? »
“Ketchum has plenty of jobs available but the workers can’t afford housing”
“Tahoe’s hiring crisis untangles area’s small businesses”
The question for our local municipalities and county governments is simple: do we think STRs are having a negative impact on the workforce housing stock and, if so, how can we have an impact? Is it appropriate to create a more active regulatory environment for STRs?
We believe it is important for our local cities and other regulatory bodies to balance the following goals: Retaining long-term rental supply; protect the integrity and culture of residential neighbourhoods; offer customers a mix of accommodation options; respect the property rights of current and future owners of STR.
The answer is not simple. Achieving these goals requires a nuanced and balanced approach. One-size-fits-all solutions will be inherently unfair to a large segment of the market and are likely to negatively impact both our residential communities and our tourism economy.
Part of the answer could be zoning. Creating zoning districts that recognize private property rights while preserving our bed base for visitors and protecting the character of our residential neighborhoods is an intriguing possible solution. Our cities and counties should consider zoning limitations (overlays of short-term tourist districts) in our traditional core resort areas with “status quo” STR rules and regulations. Central areas other than resorts could be zoned as residential for an additional charge (Ouray excise tax is worth exploring) with funds earmarked for workforce housing programs.
There are a few easy steps to follow if the goal of STR regulation is to protect residential neighborhoods (and not become just a government financial grab), balance property rights, and maintain our visitor base . The county and our cities should require local contacts for all STRs, require notification on STR listings that “rental is located in residential area” for non-tourist district rentals, require business license and STR license in unincorporated Eagle County (including shift staff time charges) and enforce sales tax collection for STR units. Cities and counties should only allow rentals with proof of sales tax rebate and should allocate sales tax and license fees generated by STR to fund an incentive pool to encourage shifting from short term rentals to long term rentals.
Professionally managed vacation rentals – especially those located at our resort – simply do not create or exacerbate housing issues for our workforce. New fees and taxes on short-term rentals should be handled in an appropriate manner that resolves the issues involved and does not lead to unintended consequences. One-size-fits-all solutions to this problem are likely to create more problems than they solve.
Chris Romer is President and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com.