Can Colorado Mountain Resort Communities Meet Affordable Housing Demands?

Can Colorado Mountain Resort Communities Meet Affordable Housing Demands?

by: Michelle Haynes, Town of Mountain Village
Colorado resort mountain communities, like Telluride, Colorado, which has seen an increase in affordable housing demands for both rental and deed restricted ownership units since 2012 and also recognized a need for affordable housing since the early 1980’s. A striking counter balance since the Great Recession, less than ten years ago, when the Telluride region local governments suspended regional affordable housing construction efforts due to lack of resources and demand. Now, the Telluride region is doubling efforts to meet current housing demand.
Free market housing trends contribute to the housing shortage found in communities like Telluride impacting the demand and need for more deed restricted housing. Since the Great Recession, free market housing inventory once used for workforce rental housing in Telluride, has been vacated, renovated, sold and subsequently used as a second home - whether condominium or house. Long term free market rental inventory is being repurposed and utilized for short term rental opportunities like VRBO and AirBnB.
Jonathan Schechter, the Founder & Executive Director of the Charture Institute, a Jackson Hole, Wyoming-based think tank focused on growth, change, and sustainability in Places of Ecological and Aesthetic Significance (PEAS), noted a trend that service industry wages are not keeping up with rising housing costs, creating challenges for service workers to rent or own comfortably in resort communities. Although local communities may be able to control rental and ownership deed restricted unit costs, local government has less control over equitable service industry wages.
A housing needs assessment is a meaningful planning tool to help a community understand the demand, inventory needs, ownership or rental inventory decisions, and housing projections. Over the past ten years, the Town of Telluride focused on construction of owner occupied, for sale units. Currently, the town reprioritized rental and smaller units in addition to providing a steady inventory of ownership units. The Town government efforts are focusing both on entry level rental housing and maintaining housing inventory for local professionals. This is based upon an understanding of the local housing demands including a need to provide a range of local housing opportunities with a range of pricing options.
The Town of Telluride continues to provide a range of affordable housing inventory. Within the past two years eight deed restricted condominiums were constructed in the center of town, to target a mid-level professional demographic. The Town built out additional rental units within an existing Town owned rental housing building. Construction is underway for a boarding house and apartment building, providing approximately an addition sixty (60) rental units. The Town is also in the design and bid phase to construct eight to ten additional deed restricted condominiums in the core of town including below grade public parking and unit space for a non-profit arts school. Last, the Town has three tiny homes in conceptual plan that are being considered for development. The Town is providing a range of rental and purchase opportunities along with a range of housing types. At the same time, approximately ten affordable housing mitigation units will be constructed over the next year associated with new private commercial and mixed use development.
The Telluride region has long prioritized the provision of affordable deed-restricted housing. Despite the slowdown during the Great Recession, approximately 32% of San Miguel County’s population resides in deed restricted housing and approximately 47% of the Telluride Region’s population resides in deed restricted housing. Even in light of a strong deed restriction program in place since the 1980’s, housing demands continue to increase and will remain, at a minimum, a regional priority for the next few years.
Join us at the Colorado APA conference in Telluride and Mountain Village in October. I’ll be hosting a mobile bus tour illustrating a range of Town of Telluride financed affordable housing projects types in various phases of construction from the east to west side of the town. We’ll also discuss prioritization of projects, funding mechanisms, partnerships and incentive and mitigation programs, regulations and policies.
Photo Top Left: Photo credit: Ross Kribbs, Charles Cunniffe Architects; Gold Run Affordable Housing Project. Partnership between San Miguel County and the Town of Telluride, Colorado.
Photo Mid Right:  Courtesy Charles Cunniffe Architects, Conceptual Rendering; Boarding House Affordable Housing Project. Town of Telluride, Colorado


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