Breckenridge Town Council outlines multiple strategies to increase workforce housing
Breckenridge Town Council held a special meeting Tuesday, May 18, to discuss ways to increase workforce housing in the town, outlining a variety of potential solutions.
The town’s main goal is to increase the proportion of housing units occupied by residents who work in the county. Currently, 29% of the Breckenridge housing stock is occupied by residents, and the Town Council’s goal is to reach 35%.
Converting short-term rentals into long-term rentals is a main aspect of that goal, and the town and council are working together in hopes of finding solutions.
“The trends are troubling. The market is not going to equalize,” council member Carol Saade said at the meeting. “So I think we presented some great solutions. At the same time, we know from the housing assessment, from just trends, short-term rentals do put pressure on the housing market and displace our workers.”
Breckenridge housing manager Laurie Best said she’s confident in the council’s willingness to find solutions to address workforce housing shortages. Best said the next steps will be to determine the exact amount of properties the town is able to convert and how much money would be needed to incentivize owners.
“Council (on Tuesday) gave us direction to really start working to convert short-term rentals back into long-term rentals because that’s our most significant need,” Best said.
While rentals are the main focus right now, Best said increasing all kinds of resident-occupied workforce housing would be good for the community.
She also said it’s important to note that council will not be imposing any caps or restrictions on short-term rentals despite previous discussions on the topic. Rather, council will be evaluating additional fees that could cover the cost of the program.
“I think the council is super committed to this issue,” Best said. “Coming out of COVID, we’re feeling a sense of urgency, and so it’s a high priority. They directed us to look at this program as probably one of the highest priorities in terms of trying to balance their workload.
“I got great direction from the council and a great commitment to move forward.”
Another consideration from the council is creating a housing compliance division to work with homeowners associations. Currently, the town has a hotline to report housing violations, but the council said it could use stricter enforcement to maintain livability in Breckenridge neighborhoods.
“We should have more of a proactive compliance versus a reactive,” Town Manager Rick Holman said. “Currently, now, we react to complaints, and we’re doing a good job of following up with people, but if we had multiple compliance positions, we could be out there even doing proactive patrol and looking at where we know there’s problems with areas.”
Council member Jeffrey Bergeron agreed the housing department could use a larger staff considering its demand.
“We know what the problem is. We know that it’s nearly impossible for workforce housing people to find workforce housing,” Bergeron said. “Staffing is suffering, and also the whole experience of the visitor is suffering because the staff is overworked and sometimes has to have a long commute.”
Despite this, he said he was encouraged by the discussion at the special meeting and that the town is aggressively working to tackle the issue.
The council also discussed accessory dwelling units, such as a lock-off apartment that includes a separate kitchen, and the possibility of changing what is required to have one. Currently, accessory dwelling units are deed restricted and therefore can’t stay empty, and sometimes owners will convert them into a bedroom so they are no longer considered an accessory dwelling unit, council member Kelly Owens said in the meeting.
Council questioned whether incentivizing homeowners to provide accessory dwelling units could be a solution as long as there is a benefit for all parties involved. That could include collaboration with the planning commission and encouraging those building new homes to incorporate accessory dwelling units when possible.
Council member Dick Carleton said it’s clear the town has dedicated a lot of time to improving housing in the mountain community but that the need is accelerating at a rapid pace.
“If Breckenridge and the brand of Breckenridge doesn’t have sufficient workforce or has to bring workforce in from far away, we start losing who we are, and that doesn’t help anyone,” Carleton said. “So I think we all need to roll up our sleeves and work together in a reasonable way where we can all make some sacrifice, and make some investment in the community and get to a place where all business sectors can thrive.”
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