Summit’s cost of living not so different from states, housing costs are |

Summit’s cost of living not so different from states, housing costs are

Jane Reuter

SUMMIT COUNTY – While locals may frequently grouse about the cost of living in Summit County, census figures show it’s not out of line. In fact, the cost of living here is about even with the rest of the state, according to Census 2000.

The census bureau released those findings and several others this week. It has published statistics gathered during its information gathering gradually during the past year.

But those who have studied Summit County living say it’s not the day-in and day-out costs that are keeping wallets thin. It’s the cost of housing. The Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG), which represents several mountain counties, concluded that when they conducted a study on what makes living here so tough.

“It isn’t transportation, goods or services or everything else that makes up a household budget,” said Linda Venturoni, NWCCOG’s director of special projects. “All of those tested out very close or even the same as national averages. The cost of housing by itself is driving the cost of living.”

The median value for a home in Colorado is $166,600. In Summit County, it’s $317,500.

County Assessor Denise Steiskal has been keeping an eye on those figures as well.

“Two-thirds of our single-family residences are valued at over $400,000,” she said. “Isn’t that sad?”

Figures like those make the job of the Summit Housing Authority (SHA) nearly vital. Director Gordon Ferris thinks the SHA’s programs are helping keep some people in the county that might otherwise leave.

“The essence of our mission is to provide a housing opportunity for folks within their means,” he said. “We have to address this problem one house at a time. We are making progress.

“We’re building a 40-unit development – Gibson Heights – in Breckenridge. We have other projects in the pipeline in Frisco and in Silverthorne. And there are other projects in Breckenridge that are deed restricted to locals.”

Ophir Mountain Village, just outside Frisco near the County Commons, also is entirely deed restricted.

Deed restrictions, Ferris said, are so far the most effective way to bring housing costs down, but he knows they’re aren’t universally popular.

“A lot of people have a conceptual problem with a deed restriction because they feel in a home ownership scenario it’s a violation of the American dream somehow,” he said. “We believe there are three benefits to homeownership within the parameters of the American dream – pride of ownership, wealth accumulation and tax benefits if you finance your home with a mortgage. With a deed-restricted model, you get pride of ownership, tax benefits and a portion of the wealth you would accumulate in the free market.”

That, he believes, is not a bad tradeoff for people buying their first home, especially in a resort real estate market.

And it’s not just for the homeowner. Ferris believes all of Summit County benefits from SHA programs.

“We care because we need teachers, firefighters and police officers to live near where they work,” he said. “We need people to be able to join civic organizations such as town councils and other neighborhood type organizations in the community in which they work. To have a viable community, you need to have people that don’t commute into that community participate in it.”

The high cost of housing here takes its toll in other ways. Past surveys have shown Summit County with the highest percentage of working women in the nation. That’s because allowing moms to stay at home isn’t a luxury most local households can bear.

Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at

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