Affordable Housing in Ski Towns and Possible Solutions

According to the latest market data, the median listing price for a home in Aspen, CO is just north of $1 million dollars. The median household income is $72,336 (meaning that the average home goes for about 14 years times the average annual salary!). Given the disparity between home value and income potential, residents are finding it challenging to secure adequate housing. Most ski and resort towns across the country are experiencing similar situations, as are western mountain towns that appeal to “Amenity Migrants”. The price of homes has far outpaced the level of income. In addition to the impact on locals, seasonal workers are hit especially hard and are unable to compete with the vacation housing rental or second home market. It is not uncommon for seasonal workers to live in cars or tents-even in the winter, Commuting for workers has become a dangerous nightmare that’s rippled into larger transit issues. The problem has only increased as the economy improves and housing prices continue to rise.

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Most people love ski towns because of their local culture and sense of authenticity. Once the locals cannot afford to live in town, the local culture has a tendency to disappear as well. You are left with a plethora of million-dollar vacation homes but no one to run the restaurants, make art, play music, serve a beer over discussion of where the best snow is, or teach your kids how to make pizza turns while you shred the double blacks. You lose what gives Telluride or Park City its charm.  As locals move to less expensive commuter towns, traffic also increases. When more people are commuting between where they live and where they work, already congested roads become even more congested. Think eastbound I-70 on a Sunday afternoon on every major roadway leading to and from a ski town. The controversial book Downhill Slide, by Hal Clifford, documented the patterns which are still challenging us today.

parkcity2There are several towns taking proactive steps to fix these housing problems. Telluride, CO, Aspen, CO, and Park City, UT are all leading the charge in making changes. These towns have all taken positive steps to ensure their towns have housing for everyone, not just the mega wealthy. Caddis is currently working with Park City Municipal Corporation to build 8 affordable single family homes in a Pocket Neighborhood in the main city center. These units are also designed to be some of the most energy efficient affordable housing in the country, with the goal of obtaining Net Zero Energy Building Certification. Creating residencies which are energy efficient also helps increase affordability by keeping utility bills low. The project also protects and sustains two historic mining homes, adding to the contextual small town street frontage. Keeping costs down for residents and providing adequate housing will ensure that those whom make Park City unique and special are able to stay. Aspen, CO is also home to several tiny homes designated as affordable housing. This is becoming an increasingly popular solution with a new communities popping up including the latest in Salida, CO.

In Moab, UT, which suffers from similar trends, Caddis worked with the Housing Authority of Southeastern Utah (HASU), the Utah Non-Profit Housing Corporation (UNPHC) and Lotus Community Development (LCDI) to develop the Cinema Court Community, 60 units of workforce housing designed to create community with sustainability in mind. This project combined CDGB, LIHTC, and money from the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund and the City of Moab to create a low maintenance, inexpensively operated, energy efficient and delightful neighborhood.

Caddis is committed to helping these ski towns succeed in their efforts to provide affordable housing. We are a company full of snow enthusiasts and we want to keep our ski towns ski towns!

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