Summit County vacation rental alliance hosts community forum to gauge response about potential lodging tax
Leaders at the organization hope to ‘repeal and replace’ Breckenridge’s new $400 per bedroom fee on short-term rentals
The Summit Alliance of Vacation Rental Managers hosted a virtual community forum Friday, Dec. 17, for residents and homeowners in Breckenridge to take a temperature check on whether they’d support an initiative that would tax lodging stays.
According to an email from the organization’s Executive Director Julia Koster, the Summit Alliance of Vacation Rental Managers is exploring the initiative and beginning to craft ballot language for the April 2022 election.
Koster said the group’s goal is to “repeal and replace” Breckenridge’s new fee, which requires short-term rental owners to pay $400 per bedroom in 2022.
“Essentially, we’d be repealing that $400 per bedroom fee and replacing it with a lodging tax,” Koster said about the goal. “Now the percentage part is one of the pieces we have to finish sorting through, but we’re thinking somewhere between 2% and 4%. … Those funds from that tax would be used specifically for workforce housing.”
If passed, the proposed tax aims to lift the burden of the new fee off homeowners and put it on visitors paying for the rentals.
At the virtual event, Forbes Tate Partners’ Doug Usher moderated and asked attendees a series of questions about the regulations Breckenridge Town Council has implemented thus far. Many of those on the call were affiliated with short-term rentals — whether by running a property management company or owning one themselves — while others lived nearby one or lived in the town’s limits.
During the event, Usher asked attendees how they felt about the town’s new fee, and Breckenridge resident Jack Rhind said he wasn’t in favor of it.
“It feels like the town has just awakened to the fact that people who buy properties and rent them make money, and now they want to capitalize on that,” Rhind said in the Zoom chat feature. “They want to get a piece of the pie, and they certainly are when they charge those kinds of fees.”
Becky Mela, who lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and owns a short-term rental in Breckenridge, said she wasn’t sure why the local short-term rental industry is being asked to bear the cost for workforce housing.
“The thing that bothers me the most about the way the town has handled it is that, again, it seems the … short-term rental owners have been singled out to carry the burden of this problem for the town, unfairly I might add,” Mela said.
One of the questions Usher posed to attendees was where they’d like to see this money allocated. Koster said this was to gauge whether there were other community issues the potential new tax could fund or if the community was focused solely on workforce housing.
Of those who responded to the poll, 74% said they’d like to see the funding go toward workforce housing. Other options were things like child care, infrastructure and road improvements, health care, recycling and waste management.
Mela questioned why short-term rental owners should be responsible for things like child care and asked if “there was no end to what (short-term rental) owners are supposed to help fund.”
Others, like Breckenridge resident Jim Bradley, said they believed the money is best spent on workforce housing.
Even still, some believe the impact of short-term rentals is greater than just housing.
Dan Cleary, who has a property in Breckenridge as well as a few in Blue River, said it was his belief that fees and taxes should be allocated to other areas of the community, too.
“(Short-term rentals) have a universal impact on resources and infrastructure,” he wrote in the chat. “I have a hard time blaming (short-term rentals) for just housing. If they are taxed, that money has to be for more than housing alone.”
Other comments from attendees stressed that they wanted more accountability from the town as to how the funding was spent. And some worried that passing the tax along to visitors would price Breckenridge out of a middle-class budget, turning it into the next Vail or Aspen.
Koster said next steps are to meet with the Summit Alliance of Vacation Rental Managers board and continue coordinating outreach events to gather public input.
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