Summit County, Colorado, like many other ski counties around the country, is experiencing a shortage of long-term rentals and affordable homes for residents who work in the county.

According to the Summit County local government, the county's permanent resident population numbers nearly 31,000 people. According to the Summit County Combined Housing Authority, 31,718 housing units in the county, more than the number of permanent residents. However, the Housing Authority found that only 30% of units in the county were occupied while 70% are currently vacant (for seasonal use). A third of the inventory of housing units in the county were being listed as short-term rentals in 2019 according to the Needs Update previously linked.

While this issue is not unique to Summit County, the way in which each ski town responds to the issue will be. Over the few months, we’ve even seen differences in the way each town within the county has responded. In solving this issue it’s important to keep in mind the many different groups of people who are affected by the issue: permanent residents who work full time in the county, second homeowners and permanent residents who rely on rental income, property managers, local business owners, home sellers hoping for the best valuation of their home, and many others. Opinions on how to fix the problem vary as widely as the groups of people who are affected by the issue but let’s first dive into what is being done to provide more housing to the permanent residents of Breckenridge.

The Blue River flows through Summit County providing water and outdoor recreation including fly fishing and rafting.

Breckenridge Town Council passed a cap on new short-term rental (STR) licenses for a maximum of 2200 licenses for non-exempt units; although currently there are approximately 3,000 non-exempt licenses. Permits will be reduced through attrition; as properties are sold or licenses are forfeited, the number of permits will reduce over time. Once the 2200 level has been reached, which may take several years, the Town of Breckenridge will issue licenses based on a waiting list. The ordinance went into effect last week on November 2, 2021.

Current property owners were able to apply for licenses up until November 2nd. Here are the details directly from the staff memo:

1. Sets a cap of 2,200 non-exempt STR licenses at any time

2. Provide a 6-month temporary STR license to the purchaser of an STR licensed property

3. Requires that exempt properties have an on-site 24 hour staffed front desk

4. The person responsible for staffing the front desk cannot be a member of the security personnel

5. Provides for the administration of a waitlist of applicants for STR licenses when the non-exempt license population exists above the 2,200 limit

6. Added provisions for exchanges of property that allow the purchaser/grantee of a licensed property to obtain an STR license (‘exempt’ transfer categories)

7. The amount of time a waitlist member has to apply for a license after being notified that they are eligible has been reduced from 20 to 5 days

8. Units for which a building permit was issued and in effect on September 14, 2021, may apply for a license within 20 days of receiving a certificate of occupancy (CO).

The Tourism Corridor/overlay district/zone Proposed Short Term Rental Zoning Map (As Presented at Special Town Council Meeting on September 17, 2021 – DRAFT on this link is still on the table. 

Town Of Breckenridge Housing Program

Workforce Housing is an issue in many communities throughout Colorado and is especially critical in resort communities.  The Town of Breckenridge is taking a proactive approach to meet the needs of local employees and is addressing the issue through a variety of tools and strategies. Learn More.

According to the Summit Daily, Breckenridge’s newly created temporary short-term rental advisory task force met for the first time last week to discuss the possible exemption area from Breckenridge’s short-term rental license cap. This exemption area would establish tourism overlay zones, highly trafficked areas that have historically been used to provide services and housing to visitors of Breckenridge. The task force was created to include a wide range of community stakeholder opinions in suggesting recommendations to the Town Council on the issue. The town council had the first reading of a proposed increase on the short-term rental license fee this week. According to the Summit Daily, most council members agreed it would be best to start with a lower fee this year since most folks in lodging have already set their rates for the upcoming year. The wording in the ordinance will be changed for the second reading to describe the fee as “up to $756,” and the council agreed with starting the fee at $400 per studio or bedroom in 2022.

The town of Breckenridge, as well as the county as a whole, is working toward sustainable, long-term solutions to the issues of long-term housing for permanent residents and the influx of short-term rentals. Working as a real estate agent with both homebuyers and sellers in Summit County since 2000 has given me a unique perspective on these issues.

Breckenridge has grown over the years. Fractional ownership resorts -The Grand Lodge Peak 7 (114 condominium units) and the Grand Colorado Peak 8 (47 condominium units and 56 lock-off units). With 600-plus employees, Breckenridge Grand Vacations stands as the largest year-round employer in Breckenridge and second-largest overall.

Vail Resorts whole ownership units at Crystal Peak Lodge (45 condominium units), One Ski Hill Place (88 condominium units), and Mountain Thunder Lodge and Townhomes (114 units). Breckenridge ski resort operates a 180 unit property in Breckenridge to provide housing for a portion of its yearly workforce, totaling between 1,500 and 1,600 each year at the height of operations from this 2016 article in the Vail Daily.

We all pay for the lack of enforcement from long-term renter damages in second homes and short-term rental properties exceeding occupancy limits, parking, trash, and noise nuisance.

Property rights are not being taken away from current second homeowners with the STR cap.  It is no different than changes in local government zoning laws. The question is, are we picking winners and losers?