Frisco pushing for more full-time residents in town
FRISCO — Officials are looking for ways to increase full-time residency in Frisco.
The town is hoping to increase the proportion of full-time residents to at least 50% over the coming years, a move outlined as a priority in the town’s most recent strategic plan update to help increase financial stability and inclusivity.
Frisco Town Council members were given an update on potential solutions last week and kicked off discussions about why the goal was important.
Frisco currently has a full-time residency of about 42%, according to Community Development Director Don Reimer. But the numbers are based primarily on data extrapolated from the 2010 census, and Reimer said officials wouldn’t have a better idea of the current residency situation until the 2020 census numbers are released next year.
“It probably does not accurately reflect some of the things we’ve seen anecdotally with Airbnb and changes to our short-term rentals and long-term rentals and that sort of occupancy,” Reimer said. “… We don’t really have a good feel of what our starting point is. … That said, we do know we’re not at 50% residential occupancy.”
The problem is occupancy, not a lack of housing. Frisco has 3,607 housing units, and a population of only about 3,135, according to Reimer’s report. About 2,079 of those units are vacant most of the year. There are 577 short-term rentals currently licensed with the town. In the Tenmile basin — which includes Frisco and unincorporated areas like Copper Mountain and Bill’s Ranch — there are a total of 4,666 units, 3,271 of which are frequently vacant, or more than 70%.
Reimer’s report also provided data collected on town demographics, which showed a predominantly white (90.1%) population with a median age of almost 50 years old, and a dwindling number of younger children (1.3% younger than 5).
As Frisco continues ongoing discussions about social equity initiatives and promoting a more diverse community, the numbers are one of the biggest incentives for increasing year-round residency.
“It chips away at the fabric,” council member Melissa Sherburne said. “Who can really live here and create that culture that we hold so dear in Frisco? At the root of it is the diversity of professions, incomes and cultures that are present in our town. Right now, we’re getting older, richer and whiter. So how can we make policy decisions to help balance that?”
In addition to inclusion efforts, officials also voiced that building up residency numbers would provide a more stable and predictable year-round economy with more people in town visiting restaurants and shops in the offseason.
“When you have 65% of your community that sits idle, or that has this massive turnover because of tourism and short-term rentals, you’re not being efficient with your property,” council member Jessie Burley said. “… In difficult times like we’re seeing this year, when the four or five houses next to you are empty, that’s not providing resiliency. It takes a village, and if there’s not people in the village, what are we doing?”
Officials are in the early brainstorming stage of finding solutions, but a number of ideas already have been thrown around, including the development of additional deed-restricted units in town. This week, Frisco began efforts to develop new site plans for a workforce housing project on Granite Street in partnership with the Colorado Department of Transportation.
But it’s unlikely Frisco can close the gap on its own. There are 170 deed-restricted or town-managed units in Frisco — about 5% of total units — and Frisco would require about 275 additional occupied units to hit the 50% mark, according to the report.
“If you take a look at what we have to build on, we have the Sabatini lot, we have the CDOT lot and a couple of spot lots floating around,” council member Andrew Aerenson said. “Let’s throw them in a bucket, and we might come up with 100 units. We also have 3,000 units sitting in the other bucket that are the nonowner occupied full-time units. So my focus is really on the 3,000 units that represent real potential. Building our way out is the least sustainable thing we can do.”
Additional options include looking at tighter regulatory measures that would limit the number of short-term rental licenses, require businesses to provide employee housing or implement minimum occupant limits for units.
Officials seemed to gravitate more toward offering incentives, however, like paying short-term rental owners to convert units to long-term rentals for a set period, adjusting criteria for the existing Housing Helps program to boost participation or catering to remote workers by improving telecommunications systems and granting them eligibility for workforce housing.
Conversations will continue and in more depth. The town decided to bring together a housing subcommittee composed of council members, town staff and other community members to help keep the issue at the forefront of officials’ attention.
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated include additional information about Tralee Capital’s proposed project.