Advocates lobby for short-term rentals ahead of Summit County regulations

Members of the Summit Alliance of Vacation Rentals say they want to be seen as a "resource"

Short-term rental properties in the Copper Mountain Resort village are pictured on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021. These units fall in the county's "resort zone" meaning there is no limit to how much they can be rented out.
Ashley Low/For Summit Daily News

How should Summit County manage the growth of short-term rentals? That’s the million-dollar question that county government officials and all four of its towns have been asking for about a year and a half as the industry continues to grow. 

In the last year, the county has implemented two moratoriums on specific short-term rentals — the most recent of which took effect at the end of May regarding rentals in neighborhood zones — as it continues to figure out how to slow the growth of licenses. 

As it does, there’s one local group that is advocating for the positive impact that short-term rentals has on the community. Called the Summit Alliance of Vacation Rental Managers, the group worked with the county last fall on the county’s then-new pilot program that converted vacation rentals into long-term housing for locals. 

More recently, the group came back to meet with the county during a Summit Board of County Commissioners work session meeting on Tuesday, July 19. The group’s executive director, Julie Koster, told the commissioners that she wanted the alliance to be seen as a “resource” as it continues to address the impacts of short-term rentals. 

Koster kicked off the presentation by reporting some data that shows how big of an impact the industry has on the local economy. She also noted that all of the alliance’s members are trying to help with the county’s lack of housing.

“The peace of mind is that everyone is trying. They are trying to do something,” she said. “Some of our members have actually purchased homes in order to provide that housing, … while others have provided a rent subsidy to their employees to help them offset costs.”

During the presentation, Koster acknowledged that the local real estate market is hot and has been for a while but noted Summit County isn’t the only community experiencing this trend. 

In early May, the county commissioners were surprised to learn that some of the measures they implemented last year to curb the growth of short-term rentals didn’t have the effect they wanted. According to previous Summit Daily News reporting, in the latter half of 2020, about 29% of sales resulted in a license. In the latter half of 2021, that conversation rate rose to 39%. 

During her presentation, Koster showed data that could explain why the average prices of homes continue to rise. The data she presented was collected from the Summit Association of Realtors. 

“What we found is the difference is really not that much,” Koster said of the impact short-term rentals have on the real estate market. “It ends up being a 3.9% value increase for those properties that have a vacation rental license, so it’s really, really small — just 4%. The bigger items that have an impact are location and size.” 

Koster’s presentation ended with a few recommendations. One of those was for the county to host more opportunities to collect public feedback as it drafts new short-term rental regulations.

The county is currently doing just that. It scheduled a total of four open houses for the public to weigh-in on vacation rental issues, two of which will occur next week. One will be held from 5:30-7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 26, at the Summit County Courthouse in the Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting room, 208 E. Lincoln Ave. in Breckenridge, and the other will be from 5:30-7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 27, at the Dillon Town Hall in the council chambers 275 Lake Dillon Drive in Dillon. 

Koster also suggested that the alliance could help the county generate workforce housing funding. 

“We saw that last year, there were 1.4 million nights booked across Summit County, and that’s in all the towns and all of that,” Koster said. “That’s a lot of nights. If we were to ask for a dollar per reservation from every single one of those renters and then put it into this fund for the county to build housing, that would make a huge impact.” 

Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said she was in favor of this idea but that it’s not just money that makes it difficult to build more affordable housing. Lawrence cited issues with getting water and sewer secured for the Lake Hill workforce project as a prime example. The town of Frisco does not have enough water rights to meet the demand of the proposed workforce housing project, according to a study completed by Hendrix Wai Engineering Inc.

In general, all the members of the alliance agreed that they would like to help the county come to a solution, and they plan to stay involved in the public process as the county comes up with new measures. 

“This is an economic equation that we all have to work out, and it’s not an easy one,” said Toby Babich, owner of Breckenridge Resort Managers and board member of the Summit Alliance of Vacation Rental Managers.

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