As is true in many resort communities, Breckenridge and Summit County’s employee housing stock has not been able to keep up with demand, creating challenges for both employers and employees.
Breckenridge’s Employee Housing Challenges
As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States, Breckenridge experiences significant housing demand from full-time residents, resort visitors, second homeowners, and seasonal employees. There is a shortage of housing for local workers, as they can’t afford to live close to their jobs at high prices. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the challenges of employee housing in Breckenridge and highlight solutions in play.
Breckenridge’s 5-Year Housing Blueprint – Workforce and Community
Employee Housing really must have the whole spectrum of housing met. The emphasis for the Town of Breck programs for local employees is two-fold:
· To be sure there are the people here to sustain our economy
· To maintain a sense of community
The goal for sustainability and traffic is for 47% of our local employees to be living in the Blue River basin but the community is far short of that now. A balance of 35% of resident housing and 65% vacation/lodging. As of 12/31/21, 27% of workforce housing lives in Breckenridge and 29% is resident housing. Business owners are struggling by working with much lower staffing levels than they need, and the result is that the owners get burnt out and visitors get frustrated with the lack of service.
Breckenridge has a 5-year blueprint with solutions in response to our housing crisis. The trends that are putting increased pressure on our housing stock include losing housing traditionally used for employees to second homeowners or short-term rentals. Technology enables people to live here and work elsewhere, and remote workers have shown up here in droves, loving the outdoor lifestyle combined with good Internet and being reasonably close to a major airport (DIA). Our society is choosing different priorities, and to live where they like to vacation – because they can.
This has added more pressure to an already stressed housing situation. Strategies to address this housing shortage are many and varied. The town has a commitment to buy downs, housing helps, and new construction on available land, looking everywhere for potential places to build. They have an established community and town council commitment to invest resources and $50 million will be invested in housing within the next 5 years. Leveraged, this will total more like $300 million invested. Often, there is a small loan to a project, with a lot of additional investment dollars put in overall.
Resort Employee Housing
Vail Resorts, which owns and manages the Breckenridge Ski Resort, has been building and running employee housing units for their seasonal workers for years and has added additional units in Keystone in the last couple of years in addition to their Breckenridge apartments. This is fairly dense housing which caused a significant challenge during Covid and is typically offered first to foreign workers coming into the county on a work visa, and workers who are here for just a season. It doesn’t fully meet their demand for workforce housing let alone for all local supporting businesses like restaurants, retail stores, activity providers like dog sledding, construction workers, or even local government employees like fire protection and teachers.
Breckenridge Buy Down Program
This innovative program by the Summit Combined Housing Authority is focused on current Breckenridge homeowners with the goal of “Helping Locals Stay Locals”. These homeowners rent out their homes to local workers and by adding a deed-restriction to their new or used homes they can receive a cash payout of 15-30% of the current value of the home. The reality is that Breckenridge cannot build our way out of this crisis fast enough – it takes 3 years from breaking ground to locals living in those units, so this is an innovative way to move existing homes into the rental pool while giving the homeowners an incentive. The cash payout can be used for anything the homeowner would like to do with that money, but frequently has been used for a down payment, home repairs, and HOA special assessments.
Lease to Locals is a new rental housing opportunity for the local workforce. Generous cash incentives are provided to property managers and property owners for converting their short-term rentals into seasonal and long-term rentals. This program has been recently extended through the end of 2022.
Breckenridge Buy Down Program
In this program, also from the Summit Combined Housing Authority, the Town of Breckenridge searches for and purchases homes they actually take possession of. Perhaps after some home improvements, they sell these homes with deed restrictions, meaning the new buyers need to work in Breckenridge, at a discounted price. How much below market varies, but the goal is to make these homes affordable to locals and again, to “Help Locals Stay Local!”
There are currently Buy Down units for sale on the MLS and listings for additional units are just around the corner. These units can be acquired by local businesses for their employees, or those working locally to purchase if they’re able to do so. There are 5 units now, with 4 more units becoming available shortly as part of this buy-down program.
Build it and they Will Stay
However, the Town of Breck Housing is putting its money where its mouth is and building affordable employee housing of various types at a rapid pace. At least as rapid as the scarcity of land and building materials will allow!
There are 80 construction units as part of Alta Verde I & II, plus with the justice Center project coming online with another 172 units, the total of 252 units of all rentals are well on their way. The developer uses modular construction on the Justice Center project, which is located just from the Breckenridge Recreation Center and includes studios, and 1- and 2-bedroom rentals, so it has a little something for everyone.
Next up, Stillson Placer is on deck with another 80-90 units available for move in late in 2024 or early 2025 near our locals’ Wellington Neighborhood. There will be some for-sale units including townhomes and possibly some single-family homes and duplexes.
The local commitment is for all new construction to be net zero in terms of sustainability. Sustainability is one of our highest priorities in addition to cost, the strategy is not density at all costs. Sustainability goals include maximizing passive energy, producing on-site energy, focusing on substantial winter insulation, positioning each home to take advantage of the maximum sun, and installing the most energy-efficient mechanical systems to reduce energy consumption.
Working Hard to Get it Right
It’s clear that a lot of work is being done to address our employee housing crisis. The county and town have launched solutions that have eased the shortage, but it cannot happen fast enough. As a real estate buyer or investor, the solution is for people to start purchasing homes now and take advantage of the deed-restrictions offered if that makes sense for your portfolio, and to invest in areas where short-term rental caps don’t yet apply. We can help you navigate the current market and find the perfect home for you and your family.
Contact Jan today to get started!