Breckenridge candidate Q&A: Many employers say a lack of affordable housing is the root cause of the labor shortage. How would you respond to those concerns?

The town needs to make Vail Resorts responsible for providing housing for seasonal employees, including J1 visa employees. Seasonal workers in town are searching for housing during the peak winter season and typically have a budget of $800 to $1,000 per month. Vail Resorts also needs to take responsibility to provide safe, clean and affordable housing for its employees. The town and taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for housing the thousands of employees necessary to operate Vail’s ski resorts. In addition to providing more workforce housing, Vail Resorts should compensate workers enough so they can live in decent accommodations a reasonable distance from work. The current starting wage of $15 an hour is not enough to find housing in Breckenridge. Walmart, Target, Whole Foods and even Taco Bell have a higher starting wage than Vail Resorts.

At the end of the day, the people who work in this community need to be paid a reasonable wage to be able to obtain housing in Summit County. It is a disgrace that the human beings who provide the “genuine Breckenridge” experience for tourists are sleeping in their cars, couch surfing or squeezing 12 people into a three-bedroom house/condo.

— Ally “For The People” Doolin

I completely agree with this sentiment. However, even in 1998, when I first moved here, this was a problem and challenge for any young worker in a resort town. I remember living with multiple roommates in a single room — not ideal, but we made it work. That said, the dramatic change in short-term rental viability and inventory has forced many locals out of a place to live. As mentioned before, when discussing short-term regulations, we should be doing everything we can to incentivize long-term rentals.

For workers specifically, we might also explore a down payment assistance program for business owners to help them acquire long-term housing for themselves or their employees. Town could also guarantee deposits or other upfront costs on behalf of qualified workers to help them acquire housing. Unfortunately, the reality of this housing crisis is that it is a problem that will take time and the appropriate long-term solutions to correct and resolve.

— Jason Libby

There is no doubt that there is a lack of affordable housing for employees and the town of Breckenridge. Unfortunately, we are way behind the eight ball on this problem. The No. 1 employer in the county, Vail Resorts, has not done anywhere near enough due to the effect that they have. As far as I know, there are almost 2,000 employees working for Breckenridge alone when things are normal. The town of Breckenridge is also a major employer along with Breckenridge Grand Vacations. The amount of people who these three groups employee is huge, and there needs to be massive rental housing built by the town of Breckenridge, Vail Resorts and Breckenridge Grand Vacations to alleviate this problem.

— Tom Day

I would agree that the lack of affordable housing is the greatest cause of the current labor shortage. We must acknowledge that the need for workforce housing greatly outstrips current and forecast housing supply. While the town has invested considerably into building workforce housing over the past decade, resources are limited and building new housing cannot be the only solution to this crisis.

As a Town Council representative, I would be in favor of the town continuing to provide incentives and support to property owners who convert their short-term rentals to long-term rentals at lease rates that are compatible with the current workforce wages. Additionally, I would support expanding the program that attaches deed restrictions to properties upon sale as a means of enabling local families to enter homeownership. The deed-restricted programs that exist in the town are often the only way that the local workforce can afford homeownership. We need to develop solutions to attract and support both seasonal workers as well as those who wish to build families and put down roots in the town of Breckenridge.

— Mike Zobbe

The lack of affordable workforce housing is a priority that we need to be focusing on from every angle possible. Housing is going to be a key variable in determining the success of our community. The community that cracks the code on providing housing for its employees will be the most successful. Ample affordable housing is the key to having a vibrant community, successful businesses and a great place to live.

— Todd Rankin

Ski towns are expensive. That’s a part of life. I might want to live on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, but I might have to commute an hour from Brooklyn instead. That’s also a part of life. But there are things that can be done to help a little, such as the long-term rental guarantee program I outlined in my column. Meanwhile, don’t be fooled. Raising taxes, as the county has done, is an expense that will get passed down to the tenant, making long-term rentals less affordable. Installing short-term rental caps and raising fees, as the town has done, are policies that shrink the housing pool and will also raise long-term rental prices.

— Lenny Weisberg

Lack of affordable housing is an issue but not the only issue. Wages have an impact, as well. All resort towns face the issue that many local jobs are not high-income career jobs. Also, the labor shortage is being felt all over the nation — not just resort towns. To see the current labor shortage as only a local issue and not consider the larger issues would be a mistake.

— Nathan Moorefield

Breckenridge has been proactive in creating and protecting workforce and affordable housing. Since joining the Breckenridge Planning Commission, we have approved the addition of 800 rental and affordable units. It is crucial to continue the mission of having a workforce that lives in town and has a stake in our community and not just a mercenary. The Housing Helps initiative is at a proof-of-concept stage and now needs to be energized and funded to come to full fruition. Our residents need to be financially compensated for opting to ensure their home will be home to a contributing member of our community for eternity.

— Jay Beckerman

National labor shortage trends are felt harder locally. Even before the pandemic, many businesses and organizations had a difficult time fully staffing. A lack of affordable housing stock is a major component of our labor shortage, but there are many factors. Child care costs and availability, the general cost of living, employment opportunities and compensation also play a role.

Town is continuing to support our businesses by aggressively pursuing housing options, and I support this through the current varied housing programs I listed above. However, I challenge council to look at the other components negatively impacting Breckenridge workforce livability with the same tenacity and multipronged approach.

— Carol Saade


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