Summit County Staff Introduce Strategies to Alleviate Affordable Housing ‘Crisis’

Construction of Dillon Valley Vistas, a workforce housing community, is pictured on November 19, 2020. Dillon Valley is one of the proposed Opportunity Zones highlighted in the presentation of the Housing Strategy for Dillon Valley. Summit County Housing Director Jason Dietz.
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At the Summit County Commissioners Council working meeting on Tuesday, June 15, staff from the Summit County Housing Department unveiled a solid plan of short, medium and long term strategies to help alleviate the housing shortage. affordable housing.

The main goal set by the county is to bring an additional 1,000 units to market over the next 12-18 months by implementing some of the short-term strategies.

County officials and staff had mentioned in previous meetings that the workforce housing issue was a major concern and that it was a complex issue that will require a multitude of strategies to resolve. .

“We really can’t attribute this crisis to one thing. It’s just… a perfect storm of problems that created this situation we find ourselves in now, ”County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said.

During the presentation, Jason Dietz, Director of Housing for Summit County, noted that staff had developed short-term strategies focused on the next 12 to 18 months, medium-term strategies focused on the next 18 months to three years and long term strategies. who have focused on the problem over the next three or more years.

Some of the short-term strategies Dietz presented to the board included increasing short-term licensing fees, which Dietz says currently only covers two-thirds of the program’s costs.

A few strategies presented by Dietz focused on the county’s current housing stock and how it could transform existing short-term rental housing into long-term rental housing. One of those metrics focused on data collection: Dietz suggested the county create a neighborhood mapping and measurements program to see how those areas are changing, “for better or for worse,” into what concerns short-term rentals.

Another suggested strategy was to create and attract “zones of opportunity” or neighborhoods that are historically home to residents, including Dillon Valley, Wildernest, French Creek, and Summit Cove.

Dietz said there are currently 870 short-term rental units in these types of neighborhoods and the county may develop a conversion program to turn those units into long-term rentals. Part of the effort would be to understand how individuals use their units.

“One of the next steps is to develop a targeted survey of the neighborhoods of the opportunity area targeting these short-term rentals to better understand how they are using these short-term rentals,” said Dietz.

This survey would ask owners when they use their units, how they determine a rental price and if they are willing to convert their unit. With this information, Dietz said the county could determine the incentives to offer neighborhood by neighborhood.

These incentives to convert rentals could include a subsidy. Dietz said the amount, which is yet to be determined, would be based on the neighborhood as well as the type and size of the house. Other options include a security guarantee, which means that the county would guarantee the rent and a security deposit up to a certain amount, and a property manager’s search fee, which would help offset some of the income that the owners could lose by converting. The county could also expand the Housing Works initiative and launch a local disembarkation-type program, which would connect tenants and landlords.

“We want to develop a marketing campaign so that we can target these short term rentals in these areas of opportunity to convert them to long term rentals,” said Dietz. “We still have work to do on this, but that’s the direction we’re aiming for right now is to really do a focused approach.”

Toby Babich, president of the Summit Alliance of Vacation Rental Managers, said he supports these conversion efforts. Babich noted that it’s not just short-term rentals that are causing the problem and said he hopes a myriad of solutions will be used to fix the problem in the future.

“I think we all have to realize that this is a whole community problem and it will take a whole community to solve the problem,” Babich said. “The short-term rental community is going to be a part of this discussion and try to present all possible solutions, but we are one of the many factors that are creating the housing crisis that we are witnessing right now.”

The three county commissioners agreed that a combination of solutions would be needed to address the affordable housing shortage.

“Overall, I support all of these strategies, and I think it will take a combination of all of them to be successful,” said Commissioner Tamara Pogue.

In addition to appealing to owners of short-term rental units, Dietz noted that the county was working with a local hotel where the entire property would be rented out as a condominium, which would then be rented out to other businesses or workers in the area. the community.

During the meeting, Dietz said the contract was being finalized this month and that he would like the occupation to begin on July 1. According to the presentation, the annual grant for the project is estimated at $ 286,868. County manager Scott Vargo said the team is aiming for a rental rate of around $ 850 per month.

The board praised the staff for the unique solution to some of the housing needs, and Pogue noted that while there were other hotels and motels in the county interested in a relationship like this, the owners should contact county staff.

Part of Dietz’s presentation also mentioned working with developer Gorman & Co. to produce more units at the Wintergreen property in Keystone. Dietz said the project has been approved for 243 units and only 196 have been built. Dietz said the company has already expressed interest in developing additional units. According to the presentation, the county would pay a grant of $ 15,000 for each of the 47 additional units already authorized.

In addition to these planned efforts, the council agreed to waive all county fees on workforce housing projects for the next 12 months, which Dietz noted as a small gesture that the council could do to help move projects forward.

“I would say that’s something we’re doing today, right this second, and we’re making sure no one in Summit County knows we’ve done it before,” Pogue said.

Dietz also mentioned a few parcels of county-owned land that could be developed, including a parcel near Silverthorne Elementary, a parcel near the Summit County Justice Center, a parcel near the Snake River Wastewater Treatment Plant, and a 5.5 acre parcel owned in part by Breckenridge.

The board continued to support other short-term strategies, such as working with the US Forest Service to use various campgrounds during the off-season for those living in RVs or vans, the launch a new secondary secondary subsidy program, launch of a non-compliant secondary secondary housing program, creation of a stand-alone secondary secondary inventory plan program, increase in the capacity of the Summit Combined Housing Authority down payment assistance program, hiring a consultant to audit and amend the housing and development code, working with Habitat for Humanity to develop the 0.2-acre Soda Creek plot, acquiring properties owned by Denver Water and coordinating a housing summit in late June or early July this would provide a forum to discuss collaborative projects.

Additionally, Dietz reported that the Town of Breckenridge offered to share the cost of the Redemption Program – which allows the county to buy units at market rates and place restrictions on deeds on them – for properties in the upper Blue River basin, allowing the county’s money to go further into the securing housing.

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