Letter to the editor: Summit housing problem really comes down to wages | SummitDaily.com

Letter to the editor: Summit housing problem really comes down to wages

Dave Bittner


I moved to Summit County in 1979 and quickly found a job that paid the typical starting wage of $5 an hour. Then I discovered that housing costs were two times that of the Chicago suburbs.

I later investigated the census statistics and found that two-thirds of homes were not occupied by residents with local mailing addresses — the same percentage as today! The question is how many of the two-thirds are rented long term to locals? It varies as owners first try short-term rentals and then discover that the profits are limited by the high costs and the significant amount of personal effort needed to maintain this side business. They often change back to just using the home for their personal use or try long-term rentals. They bid up the price of homes and try to recoup their investment by charging high rental rates.

In the 2000s, we have finally gotten lots more ski area employee housing (that was promised in master development plans back in the 1970s) but our population has tripled. The Summit Combined Housing Authority also has helped increase the housing supply through innovative programs, but it is not enough.

The problem I see is not a supply issue but a wages issue. In 1979, the starting wage was $5, and today it is about $15, three times as much. An entry-level condo in Dillon Valley was about $23,000 then and it is $230,000 today, 10 times as much. If the restaurants and ski shops raised their prices, would the hordes stop coming? Lift tickets and season passes keep going up in price, so why not wages?

This home price trend is not going to disappear. Since Denver home prices are still rising, we can expect Summit prices to rise quickly in the next year or two.



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