Frisco discusses path forward on workforce housing
Frisco returned to conversations surrounding the lack of affordable housing in the area last week, hoping to improve on older tools in the town’s arsenal and come up with new ideas to combat the growing need for attainable units to house the town’s workforce.
The Frisco Town Council held a wide-ranging discussion on housing issues during a work session meeting Tuesday, June 8, meant to identify the biggest barriers to solving the problem and the foundational steps officials need to take to find remedies.
Frisco’s housing coordinator Eva Henson provided council members with a presentation on the current state of housing in Frisco to help contextualize what officials are up against, in particular with regard to short-term rentals. Henson said Frisco currently has a population of over 3,100 people, and there are about 3,600 total housing units. But the rapid increase in short-term rentals over the past decade has created considerable issues with regard to the housing stock.
Henson said Frisco saw a 40% annual increase in short-term rentals between 2010 and 2018. Today, there are about 638 short-term rental units in town — about 17% of the total housing stock — and locals own only 72 of those units. In fact, of the more than 9,000 total short-term rentals in Summit County, only about 7% are owned locally, Henson said.
“We’ve seen an extremely rapid growth in short-term rentals, and unfortunately, during roughly that same time frame over the last 10 years, we saw our (long-term) rental pool significantly deplete, and, as well with the pandemic, almost vanish,” Henson said.
Henson said Frisco currently has 153 deed-restricted units in various developments in town along with 17 town-owned units, which combine to make up about 4.5% of the town’s housing stock.
Administering the town’s short-term rental licensing program and managing town-owned units has been a primary focus for Henson since the town created her position last year. But officials say that’s a problem, as she’s been too bogged down with those tasks to spend time where she’s really needed: helping to solve the town’s workforce housing shortage problem.
Interim Town Manager Jeff Durbin provided several recommendations at the meeting, many revolved around ways to give Henson more time to focus on big-picture projects in lieu of licensing minutiae. Durbin recommended the creation of a new short-term rental coordinator position to help carry the load. He said the town should also consider soliciting requests for proposals to bring in a new property management company for town-owned units and a new short-term rental software-licensing partner, as officials said the current provider, Host Compliance, has failed to meet expectations so far.
Staff also recommended increasing short-term rental licensing fees, as revenue from the fees aren’t currently meeting the costs of administering the program. With regard to reaching longer-term solutions, staff also recommended the creation of a strategic housing plan and coordinating a housing summit with other local governments.
Perhaps the most fundamental recommendation discussed by the council is ensuring there is time during each meeting to have focused conversations about different topics related to housing in order to come up with solutions they can direct staff to pursue.
“To frame what I’m hoping we get out of today and moving forward is … where we are with housing, what we’re up against, some of the ideas around the emergency that’s presented to us and how we might be able to start chipping away at some of that,” Mayor Hunter Mortensen said. “The first thing I think we can do as a council to successfully really start making some headway is agendizing housing moving forward every meeting we have.”
As Frisco officials work through newer ideas, they’re also hoping to update some of their previous efforts to get better results. In 2019, the Town Council established the Housing Helps program, which provided financial incentives to homeowners and homebuyers in exchange for placing a deed restriction on the residence requiring occupants to live and work in the area. The town later revised the program to add a 100% area median income limit on the deed restrictions and to cap financial assistance at $75,000 per unit. Frisco has not received any new deed restrictions through the current program.
At the meeting Tuesday night, the Town Council unanimously approved a resolution to better align their Housing Helps program with the original program, providing more flexibility by removing things like AMI limits, financial assistance caps, price appreciation caps or household size requirements. While the update was passed, another suggestion came out of the meeting: Housing Helps 3.0, a future update to the program that would focus more on actively converting short-term rental properties to long-term rentals.
“It’s not necessarily an affordable housing project,” Community Development assistant director Bill Gibson said. “This is a ‘how do you keep your community and not become a full on, 100% resort’ project.”
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