As Breckenridge plans for new workforce housing project, short-term rental concerns mount

The Blue 52 workforce housing project in Breckenridge is pictured April 16, 2018. A new workforce housing project is planned just south of the neighborhood.
Photo by Hugh Carey / Summit Daily archives

Breckenridge Town Council is working to alleviate a housing shortage for residents but is losing units to the short-term rental market faster than new ones can be built.

At the Town Council work session Tuesday, March 9, Housing Manager Laurie Best talked about the pressure on the local housing market.

“The market is crazy and locals trying to get units is extremely difficult, and I think the employers are feeling it with not being able to hire,” Best said.

Best brought up the next workforce housing project the town has in the works, which will be south of the existing Blue 52 workforce housing complex. Best said the Town Council previously gave a thumbs up to two buildings in the new development, which the housing department plans to bring before the Breckenridge Planning Commission in May, but asked council if they would be interested in adding a third building. The additional building would add nine units to the development for a total of 27.

“Obviously, those nine units in that Building C would be a lot less expensive to build as part of this project that we’re doing right now, and we feel that the need is so great for these rental units,” Best said.

The units would be one-bedroom apartments for local employees, and Best said she hopes construction on the project can begin this summer for completion in spring or summer 2022. She said that ideas about master leases for the project with local employers or day care centers have been brought up, noting that the Carriage House is short seven teachers out of 18 total.

Council unanimously supported a third building being added to the project.

“I’m completely supportive,” council member Erin Gigliello said. “Thank you for this solution.”

Short-term rental woes

Council member Dick Carleton said mitigating the impacts of short-term rentals goes hand-in-hand with building new housing for local employees as part of an effort to address the housing shortage. In the past 14 months, he said the town has approved 330 short-term rental licenses.

“I was shocked to see 16 of those licenses are in Gold Camp,” Carleton said. “… They were all over our traditional workforce locations. That was very unsettling to me, to be honest — the rate at which we’re losing our long-term rentals to short-term rentals.”

Town Manager Rick Holman noted that about two-thirds of the new applications were for short-term rental units that previously were being used as long-term rentals, primary homes or second homes. The remaining one-third represents new owners at existing short-term rentals.

Mayor Eric Mamula countered criticism the town has received following a previous work session where the council discussed limiting new short-term rentals, stating that an increasing number of short-term rental units is the town’s business because they take away from long-term rentals available to the workforce.

“I think everybody that listens to the council on these calls should be very worried about where we are trending with the short-term rentals in this community,” Mamula said. “I support how we run our community as a short-term rental community. That’s most of our bed base. You cannot violate that happy medium between places for people to live and work in the community and then where the guests (stay).”

Mamula added that while the town is excited to build another 80 workforce housing units at its Alta Verde project, the number of short-term rental units being added to the market far exceeds the number of workforce housing units being built.

At a future meeting, the Town Council plans to discuss the impacts of short-term rentals, current restrictions and possible ways to further regulate the business.

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