Airbnb study shows that over 800 short-term units in Summit County are comparable to low- or moderate-income housing

Coeur Du Lac Condominiums in Dillon are pictured Aug. 6. The property is one of many around the county that has short-term rentals.
Tripp Fay/For the Summit Daily News

Airbnb and HR&A Advisors, a real estate and economic development consulting firm, released a study detailing short-term rentals’ impact on five counties in Colorado: Summit, Grand, Eagle, Pitkin and Routt. 

In the study, researchers noted that in Colorado, about 30% of visitors opt to use short-term rentals, and over half of visitors who use short-term rentals are staying in Summit County. Across all five counties, short-term rentals supported 14,700 jobs, directly and indirectly. Over 13,000 of those jobs were directly created by the short-term rental industry, and those jobs generated $599 million in wages in total.

Other key findings included that over 5 million visitors stayed in the counties studied, and short-term rental visitors spent approximately $1 billion in mountain communities. Most of those visitors, about 37%, stayed specifically in Summit County, where visitors spent about $40,000 per permanent resident. 

The study does acknowledge the lack of affordable housing across the five counties and concluded that Summit County had 807 short-term units that are comparable to workforce housing. This means that these units are available for more than 15 days per month and rent less than $150 per day. 

“As of October 2021, Summit County accounted for over half of the (short-term rentals) that could be comparable to housing affordable to low- and moderate-income households,” the study read. 

Summit County has approximately 31,200 housing units and 20,800 short-term units, the study continued. In Breckenridge, the housing staff has a goal of having 47% of the workforce living in town within the next five years and create a balance of 35% resident housing to 65% vacation or resort lodging in the community. The Airbnb study also stated that only 3% of current short-term rental inventory could be turned into workforce housing because of “typology, availability and price point.” Potential solutions, researchers wrote, should be addressed through building more affordable housing and by incentivizing the conversion of short-term renting to long-term renting.

Several members of Breckenridge town staff, including housing planning manager Laurie Best, have said that constructing more housing inventory is not the only solution. The town also has housing programs such as Housing Helps and the Buy-Down Program that works to deed restrict homes.

“We can’t build our way out of this,” Best said.

According to the 2020 Summit County Housing Needs Assessment, the housing gap in Summit County is projected to expand to nearly 2,400 units over the next few years, even when accounting for the pipeline of affordable projects. This gap, in part, was caused by short-term rentals, the study said. In 2020, short-term rentals accounted for 50% of the entire vacant housing inventory and a third of the entire county housing inventory. Over the next five years, the regional gap of the nearby five counties is projected to exceed 5,100 units.

“It can be concluded that the expansion of owner-occupied gaps is related to the prevalence of investors, second-home owners and previously owner-occupied inventory being converted into either long-term or short-term rentals,” the needs assessment read. 

Across the county, various government entities have worked to create regulations on short-term rentals in communities. Summit County Commissioners recently enacted a nine-month moratorium on new licenses in neighborhood zones, and Silverthorne Town Council had a work session dedicated to early discussion about how to proceed with regulating them. Breckenridge Town Council, which has had several conversations since enacting a moratorium in 2021, will continue its discussions on short-term rentals Tuesday, June 14, at its work session. 

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