Colorado mountain town Facebook page reflects a crisis: ‘We’re all desperate for housing here’

Trevor Ballantyne
Steamboat Pilot & Today

The local housing crisis affecting renters is evident in the daily posts on the Steamboat Springs Rooms for Rent Facebook page:

A family of three “in desperate need of a place.” Longtime locals “in desperate need” of housing. Tenants looking to fill an empty bedroom because they know “we’re all desperate for housing here.”

Since July 2, roughly 70% of posts made to the page reflect individuals seeking housing options, an analysis of the social media page shows. Of those, at least 18% are posted by self-identified couples, families or groups of people wishing to live together.

On the other side of the equation, of the 52 posts on the page offering rental options, most are for a single-bedroom option and 18% offer a lease of less than one year.

Alex Moon said he posted Sept. 24 on the page to offer a master bedroom with a private bath and a walk-in closet in his house under a proposed lease that would last until Dec. 31. A qualified candidate moved in before Thursday while Moon, an information technology professional and owner of the house, is traveling in Europe.

“I feel bad because I know it’s not a permanent solution and I have made sure to check with everybody who is interested,” he said in a phone interview this week. “I know housing is hard to find so I didn’t want a room to just be sitting there empty if someone needed it.”

Leah Wood, the president of the board for the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, is not on Facebook, but she said the desperate nature of the posts on the Steamboat Springs Rooms for Rent page is not surprising given the area’s well-documented housing shortage.

The housing authority estimates Steamboat Springs is about 1,400 units short of the number needed to house the local workforce today. That number is expected to grow to about 1,960 units by 2030 and about 2,300 additional units by 2040.

The city has 273 affordable housing units spread across five properties, according to figures provided by the housing authority, but the units are 100% occupied, a spokesperson for the housing authority said, and the combined waiting list for the properties holds more than 800 applicants.

“The fact that anyone would be considering a potential three-month leasing option just speaks to the instability of the market,” Wood said in an interview Thursday. “People don’t want to move every three months.”

Scrolling the Steamboat Springs Rooms for Rent Facebook page, it is easy to find a range of individuals seeking housing, including teachers, nurses and those who have accepted jobs at Steamboat Resort.

That range is another concerning indicator for Wood.

“The fact the housing crisis is impacting all levels of our workforce, up to doctors, nurses and city engineers, is staggering,” Wood said. “Lots of people understand that making a living in a resort town, making a living as a liftie, is a challenge.

“If we really don’t have housing that is available for these higher income earners in our community, I think that speaks to the magnitude of the challenge.”

For some, the magnitude of the challenge behind finding long-term or permanent housing in the city results in a decision to leave Steamboat altogether.

Luis Gaspar lived on and off in the city for six years before deciding to relocate with his partner this summer. A Professional Golf Association teaching professional, Gaspar said when he first came to Steamboat, he found a one-bedroom apartment at Torian Plum Condominiums for $1,100 a month.

“Two years after that, it was $2,300 for a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment,” Gaspar said Thursday during a break from his new job at a golf course in San Diego, California. “That is a more than 100% increase in two years.”

The housing authority estimates the median price for a single-family home in 2022 in Steamboat Springs was $1.16 million in a city with household buying power of $398,000. According to the state’s Department of Local Affairs, the median income for Routt County residents is $83,725.

“Unless you have a really good salary in Steamboat, which is really hard to find because everything is a service job, it’s impossible,” Gaspar said. “That is why I had to leave. The community is great and everything, but I am working two, three jobs, 12 hours a day, just to make it by.”

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