How many times have you moved in 3 years? One Summit County renter says 8
It’s not uncommon for renters to relocate often in an attempt to find stable housing
Summit County’s lack of affordable housing is a far-reaching problem that has been closely followed over the past year. Though leaders have invoked myriad programs to increase the amount of attainable units on the market, there’s still a long way to go in lessening the burden felt by so many locals.
Many of these problems are exclusive to those who rent. Because there’s only a handful of affordable apartment developments, many locals rent from private owners of condos, townhomes and duplexes, which can make for unstable circumstances at times.
For instance, Zachary Rhine has lived in the county for just over three years, and during his tenure he’s moved eight times. Most recently, he’s living in a lockoff one-bedroom apartment in Baldy Mountain Townhomes, where he’s secured a one-year lease.
Rhine moved to the county from western Maryland when he accepted a job at Breckenridge Ski Resort in its grounds crew department. During the first six months of living in the county, Rhine crashed on a friend’s couch before he could eventually find his own apartment.
The first apartment, located in Blue River, was owned by a mutual friend who was living out of state at the time. After the lease was up, the landlord was moving back, so there was no option to resign.
Since then, Rhine has moved so many times that he needs two hands to count. Even still, Rhine lucked out a few times, because he had the option of moving into employee housing when his search for something of his own came up empty. Because he worked for Breckenridge, he could move into one of its units on a month-to-month basis, which often bridged the gap between the ending of one lease and the beginning of another.
Still, living in employee housing wasn’t ideal because of the tight living quarters with multiple roommates.
“I’m 30 now — I was 29 when I was living in (employee housing) — so to think of an adult trying to cram in that much, it just really didn’t make sense,” Rhine said.
Nakeli Robbins is also relying on employee housing to get by, but only after a rental fell through. Robbins moved to Fairplay in November 2020 from Alabama to be a snowboarding instructor at Breckenridge and decided she wanted to stay year-round.
She got a job at Marriott’s Mountain Valley Lodge at Breckenridge, but the commute from Fairplay eventually felt burdensome. When the opportunity to move into a two-bedroom apartment came about, she seized the opportunity.
She moved all of her belongings into a storage facility in preparation for the move, but on the eve of her move-in date, the rental fell through. Suddenly without a place to live, she and her boyfriend moved into a friend’s one-bedroom apartment in Summit County.
The three of them lived in that unit for two months until a spot in Marriott’s employee housing opened up.
“Technically, their housing is only for interns, so there were interns living in (the) house,” Robbins said. “They offer it to full-time employees, but it goes to interns first, so I had to wait for a spot to come available.”
Both Rhine and Robbins have bounced from place to place, and in some of Rhine’s moves, it was because a landlord wouldn’t resign. Just before Rhine moved into his current unit, he lived in an apartment in Breckenridge on a 10-month lease. A month before the lease was up, the landlord notified Rhine and his roommate that there was no option to stay.
Yet again, Rhine scrambled to find somewhere to live, and it was through the Facebook group called Summit County Housing Connection where he found his current unit. He said he had to move quickly for fear of it getting taken.
“I was kind of forced into taking a place as soon as possible, which I feel like is kind of a thing up here,” Rhine said. “Someone is comfortable, they’re totally situated and then their lease gets flip-flopped. The owner wants to make more money, wants to go short-term — whatever it may be.”
Rhine said in his experience, many individuals are notified one month before their lease is up that they don’t have the option to resign, in which case they’re left rushing to find something else. When it comes down to the wire like that, he’s witnessed many cases where people sign a lease with rent payments that are over their budget in an attempt to secure something stable.
“At that point, you kind of take what you can get,” he said.
Sue Brown has had similar experiences. Brown has been a Summit County resident since 1988, but it wasn’t until she and her ex-husband sold their home after divorcing and she transitioned to renting that she realized just how bad the community’s affordable housing market had gotten.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a family or that you’ve raised your three children in Summit County and have paid taxes and have been a homeowner,” Brown said. “Once you sell your home, if you have a home, and you become a renter, you have no rights whether you have dogs or pets. You are considered a bad renter off the bat.”
Like Rhine, Brown has moved a few times since she sold her home in 2016. She’s currently in a one-year lease for a fourplex in Frisco, but before this she was living in a four-bedroom unit in Lagoon Townhomes with her three sons.
When her lease was up, her landlord at first said there was no option to resign. Later, the landlord came back with a $1,700 rent increase that was outside Brown’s budget.
That’s a common occurrence in Summit County, renters say.
In general, Robbins said that since moving from Alabama last year, she’s noticed that there’s often a trade-off locals face. In order to stick around in this community, she said she’s noticed that residents have to give and pull when it comes to securing stable housing.
“It’s been pretty stressful,” she said. “It’s a weird mix of wanting to be in this area because of what the mountains offer … but also being so stressed about where to sleep at night and just trying to figure out leases that will work out and things that won’t fall through.”
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