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Silverthorne reflects on workforce housing following countywide initiative

The Blue River Apartments are pictured in Silverthorne. The town of Silverthorne held a discussion on its workforce housing opportunities this week, reflecting on the Housing Action Initiative held in Breckenridge on July 21.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Summit Daily News archives

Silverthorne Town Council and staff discussed strategies to help with the need for workforce housing in the community during a work session Wednesday, July 28, reflecting on the conversations that came out of the Summit County Housing Action Initiative event last week.

The discussion covered a variety of potential solutions presented at the housing summit, including extending the 5A funding initiative, limiting short-term rentals, creating a clearing house for long-term rentals and incentivizing accessory dwelling units in town.

“It’s a multifaceted conversation any time we talk about housing,” Town Manager Ryan Hyland said in the meeting.



The first idea came around accessory dwelling units. The town has several fees and permits that folks need to work with if they want to add an accessory dwelling unit to their property, and the town will look to continue conversations on ways to further incentivize individuals to build them.

Council member Mike Spry said he was part of the conversation around creating a clearing house for long-term rentals at the housing summit, and most agreed the Summit Combined Housing Authority would be the best option to create the platform.



Council member Kevin McDonald sits on the housing authority’s board, and he said while it might not solve the problem entirely, it can become a one-stop shop for information on available rentals.

“The housing authority is going to make a more concerted effort to be that clearing house just for information,” McDonald said. “That’s kind of a natural instinct of what a housing authority should be anyway.”

Hyland said the housing authority has seen high turnover among its staff for years, making the opportunity to expand its resources challenging. Though the housing authority’s Executive Director Rob Murphy supported the idea at the summit.

Mayor Ann-Marie Sandquist noted that certain properties are better suited for long-term renting than short-term renting, which she thinks is something that needs to be addressed. McDonald noted, though, that many folks who are short-term renting their properties know what they’re getting into and are well educated on their options.

Council member Derrick Fowler, who runs a real estate company with his wife, said he has seen the frequency at which short-term rentals are being added to the market firsthand.

“Of all the homes my wife and I sold over the last two years, more than 80% of them are on the short-term rental market,” Fowler said. “We keep in pretty close contact with a whole lot of them, and none of them are sorry they did it. They know what they’re getting into.”

Council member Amy Manka said that folks could be more comfortable with the idea of seasonal or six-month rentals so they can still access their homes during parts of the year.

Assistant Town Manager Mark Leidal said at this point in time, Silverthorne has 169 registered short-term rentals, good for about 6% of the town’s housing stock. Leidal said the town receives about half a dozen inquiries a month about new short-term rentals, a number Hyland said “pales in comparison” to other towns in the county.

Sandquist noted that while 6% isn’t a large percentage of the community, there are larger pockets of short-term rentals in specific areas of town — like her own neighborhood.

“I’m surrounded by short-term rentals,” Sandquist said. “It’s definitely changed the character of my neighborhood.”

Council generally agreed that having continued conversations around short-term rentals is a good idea, but the issue is not extreme enough at the moment in Silverthorne that immediate action is needed. Potential considerations in the future to limit short-term rentals could include a percentage cap, limiting the number of days that a homeowner can short-term rent and moratoriums on new short-term rental properties.

With regard to 5A funds — a 2016 voter-approved ballot initiative that created a 10-year countywide fund for housing projects — council and town staff were generally supportive of the idea of extending it for another 10 years and could push for the addition of a new ballot initiative in the next year or two.

Spry said extending the initiative is a no-brainer, but he said a discussion would need to be had around the tax rate since what is currently brought in through 5A is “not covering anywhere near our need.”


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