Breckenridge discusses rules to limit new short-term rental units

A "for sale" sign is posted outside a real estate office in Frisco on March 25. The Summit County real estate market broke records last year, leaving the Breckenridge Town Council concerned that workforce housing has become even less attainable.
Liz Copan/Summit Daily News archive

Breckenridge town staff estimates that there are more than 100 residences in town where a room or lock-off unit is rented out short-term, and the town council plans to do something about it.

Community Development Director Mark Truckey explained during a Breckenridge Town Council work session Tuesday, Feb. 23, that the town planning commission is concerned about an increasing number of short-term rental units in town. He explained that new single-family residential proposals include areas that easily could be converted into lock-off apartments, potentially creating a second short-term rental unit on the property.

Currently, town code says that if a lock-off apartment includes a separate kitchen, it must be deed restricted as an accessory dwelling unit to someone who works at least 30 hours per week in the county.

However, Truckey said many new home plans include areas that could be used as apartments but technically aren’t required to be deed restricted because they don’t include a separate kitchen. Truckey said that while staff plans to clarify what constitutes an accessory dwelling unit that must be deed restricted, he doesn’t think the issue will be resolved in the code because there will always be loopholes.

Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula agreed.

“You’re never going to be able to work your way out of this problem with code because people will always build something and then work their way around it,” Mamula said. “What we need to do is start flagging some of these new homes in some new categories so they cannot get a license to rent. I think somewhere in there is a potential legal way for us to prohibit this kind of thing from becoming an issue.”

Mamula said that unless homeowners rent the entire home, they shouldn’t be allowed to short-term rent units of a new home. Town Manager Rick Holman said the town estimates there are more than 100 incidences in town of homeowners renting out a room or lock-off unit short-term. Mamula noted that prior to services like Airbnb and VRBO, these types of rental units went to the local workforce. He said the units now go to short-term renters because it is more profitable.

Council member Dick Carleton said council should discuss accessory dwelling units as well as revisit short-term rentals because housing in town is increasingly inaccessible to the local workforce. He suggested that staff pull together best practices that other ski resort communities have used for managing short-term rental development and issues.

“Hence the amazing difficulty we have with workforce housing,” Mamula said. “People look at the town and expect us to just handle the problem by building more workforce housing, but is that really the way we need to handle this? Maybe it’s time to start limiting some of the new short-term rental (units).”

Council member Erin Gigliello pointed out that as more people are buying real estate in the area, more of the workforce is moving away. She said that when the town fully reopens, it will need the workforce back. Mamula said the council needs to discuss short-term rental policy and consider putting more restrictions on short-term rentals.

“Housing is by far the No. 1 request from our community,” Gigliello said. “It’s the No. 1 complaint, and I don’t think that you can talk about … building new housing without talking about what we’re doing about short-term rentals.”

Council member Jeffrey Bergeron agreed, stating that while part of the solution to the lack of workforce housing in the community is building, another part of the solution is legislative.

Council members agreed to dive deeper into the topic.

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