Breckenridge commits $50 million to ambitious workforce housing plan
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct information about the town of Breckenridge’s short-term rental fee and the number of units in the Alta Verde II and Justice Center projects.
A Breckenridge plan to invest $50 million into workforce housing over the next five years could result in 970 additional units for workers living within town limits.
The Breckenridge Town Council gave its approval of the Five-Year Housing Blueprint at its meeting Tuesday, Feb. 22. The blueprint outlines the town’s goal to have 47% of the town’s workforce living in Breckenridge. Additionally, the plan aims to create a balance of 35% resident housing to 65% vacation or resort lodging in the community.
Although Breckenridge itself will be committing $50 million, town officials hope to leverage partnerships and projects with private developers and existing homeowners into a total $300 million investment into housing over the next five years.
The town’s short-term rental fee, which the council passed in November 2021, will help fund the $50 million investment. The fee requires every short-term rental license owner to pay $400 per bedroom to support the town’s workforce housing initiatives.
“There has been a lot of questioning of ‘what are we doing with our money’ in the last few months,” Town Manager Rick Holman said at Tuesday’s meeting. “… While we’ve always known that we’re doing great things, this is a step that we can possibly point to.”
The ultimate goal is to reach 970 new units. Broken down, town officials anticipate around 600 newly constructed apartments and homes and 370 existing units converted to long-term workforce housing.
Town officials felt it was time to address what has become a “housing crisis,” said Laurie Best, planning manager for housing and child care at the town of Breckenridge. By 2023, Breckenridge is expected to have a housing need of 1,173 units, according to the 2020 Summit County Needs Assessment.
With the onset of the pandemic, preexisting housing issues in Breckenridge and Summit County have only escalated with many employers struggling to hire because potential employees can’t find a place to live, Best said.
“Our employers are unable to recruit and retain employees,” she said. “The people that have been here for a while are often making difficult decisions to relocate and move away. So it felt like the right time to take a big and bold step forward.”
The town is already involved in three ongoing workforce housing projects. Construction has already begun on the first phase of the Alta Verde project, which will bring a total of 80 apartments to the McCain property between Coyne Valley Road and the Fairview Boulevard roundabout. The council gave final approval to Alta Verde II on Tuesday, which will add 174 low-income units on the McCain property.
Another project at the Summit County Justice Center is expected to add 54 units, and the Block 11 project on Dredge Drive will add 27 deed-restricted units by January 2023.
Best said the town plans to pursue partnerships with developers like Gorman & Co, which is working on the Alta Verde project, to add more workforce housing over the next five years. However, new construction alone won’t solve the problem, she said.
“We cannot and do not want to build our way out of this,” Best said.
She said the constraints on a resort community, like a lack of available land, prevent the town from being able to solve housing issues with construction. The town plans to leverage its existing programs — Housing Helps and Buy Downs — to influence current homeowners to convert already existing units into long-term affordable housing.
The programs incentivize homeowners who are selling their homes to add deed restrictions so that they aren’t later converted to short-term rental properties.
“If you were to build everything brand new, you would overburden the town to a greater extent than we’re already at,” Mayor Eric Mamula said at the meeting. “That’s why the Buy Down program is so important.”
All of the Town Council members were supportive of the plan. Best said staff will be presenting updates on the plan twice a year at public Town Council meetings.
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