The housing crisis is worse than ever at hill stations around the world and in Park City it is increasingly difficult to find affordable housing.
Help Wanted signs dot the windows of local restaurants, retailers and hotels. Tourists have taken to local Airbnb rentals. House prices are rising and the number of long-term rentals available is decreasing. This summer, the median house price in Park City rose to $ 3 million and $ 1.29 million in Summit County, according to the Park City and County Board of Realtors.
The number of high-end homes priced at over $ 4 million has increased 241% this year, according to Derrik Carlson, co-owner of the Carlson Real Estate team in Park City. He says real estate started popping up in the fall of 2020 after the Covid shutdowns, and most people who bought homes paid in cash. According to Summit County, up to 52% of the area’s homes are second homes.
More and more institutional investors have entered the local market and are developing new single-family rental units, acquiring properties and converting them into short-term vacation rentals. Meanwhile, Covid has prompted residents to abandon the local workforce and triggered the early retirement of 1,922 residents aged 65 and over, exacerbating an already existing labor shortage. “Covid became the gasoline accelerator overnight,” says Jeffrey Jones, Summit County Director.
The number of owner-occupied dwellings in Summit County, including Park City and Deer Valley, slowly declined to 39.7% of the stock from 44.7% in 2000, while vacant dwellings rose from 40.9% to 49.9% during this period. Meanwhile, the number of available rental units fell to 10.4% from 14.14%, according to the county.
Should we ban second homes?
Park City is not an anomaly; affordable housing is a national problem. The National Income Housing Coalition Annual Conference “Report out of range” found that full-time minimum-wage workers cannot afford a two-bedroom rental all over in 95 percent of US counties.
But it’s especially annoying in mountain resort towns, which are typically surrounded by mountains and attract wealthy second-home owners, who drive up house prices. In Avon, Colorado, at least 45% of homes are second homes, and in Winterpark, it’s 90%. In Colorado’s Vail Valley, where the median house price is $ 1.7 million, even better-paid residents like surgeons, bank presidents and city managers struggle to be affordable.
“It’s been a while since it’s been working, but the problem has become an emergency,” says Melanie Rees, a newly retired Colorado consultant who has helped western resort communities solve housing issues for 30 years. .
The problem has sparked radical ideas around the world. In Frisco, Colorado, city leaders recently considered a official declaration of emergency, a mechanism typically used during natural disasters or pandemics, to open federal funding channels and adjust city budget policies to reallocate money to affordable housing. And in the mountain town of Crested Butte, Colorado, we were talking about workers on strike during the high summer season.
In Jackson Hole, Wyoming State Representative Mike Yin proposed legislation that would give counties in the state an optional flat rate based on the square footage of empty homes for more than six months a year. The 2018 bill sought to encourage residents to live in full-time homes in Jackson Hole, which had a median home price of $ 1.8 million at the time. Bill is dead. “This got the most vitriol than any other bill I’ve proposed, mostly from people out of state,” Yin said.
Officials in the town of Avon in Vail Valley, Colorado fought against the idea of a vacant property tax in 2018 after Vancouver, Canada was enacted. a one percent tax on empty houses one year earlier. The housing problem has reached a boiling point in Canada, and executives have enacted a two-year trial ban on foreign buyers who do not intend to live in the country this summer.
Across the Atlantic, citizens of St. Ives, England became aggressive in voting in 2016 to ban the sale of second homes. At the time, the average price of a house was £ 323,000, or about US $ 443,000, just under 14 times the median annual income for the southwestern coastal city. Under the “primary residence” policy, residents could purchase new properties without competition from second home buyers. But the plan backfired. According to a study by the London School of Economics (LSE), construction companies have left the city and prices have soared.
Are empty houses the problem?
While discussions on Reddit wondered if it is even ethical to have second and third homes when people cannot afford to buy or rent in the area, this is not necessarily something that will change. After all, wealthy tourists spend money on real estate, house building, activities, retailing, services and restaurants when in town and even when away with services. property management. “They are the economic engine,” Jones says.
Yet in Vail, the local housing authority pays landlords to keep the housing of local workers with what are called deed restrictions. The only rule is that the property must be occupied by full-time residents who work at least 30 hours per week in the county. The deed restriction tends to decrease property values by about 15 to 20 percent, so the housing authority pays the landlord the difference. So far, Vail has acquired 162 units and plans to collect 1,000 properties by 2027. Sun Valley, Idaho, is currently investigating whether a similar program could work there.
“Act restrictions are a must,” says Rees.
Unlike many other ski towns in Colorado, Pitkin County has a very high number of deed-restricted affordable housing – 3,045 – compared to the county’s total population of 17,358. Restricted ownership properties vary by community, but they tend to cap annual appreciation at around three percent per year and require that a property be sold only to residents who work in a business physically located in the local county. .
Summit County and Park City use deed restrictions to “maintain” long-term affordability, but to be on par with Pitkin County’s 17.5% ratio, Summit County in Utah would have need 7,412 affordable housing or labor-constrained units per deed. And if businesses continue to grow and immigration continues, the need for housing will also increase, Jones says.
Communities can also use other tools, such as fees or taxes on new construction, real estate transactions, or rules that require a business to provide housing for a certain percentage of jobs. A new hotel, for example, could turn part of his property into accommodation, says Rees.
Communities could also use secondary owners as part of the solution. Rees says alienation and finger pointing won’t help the problem. “It’s a moot point,” she said. Instead, cities can encourage these owners to create closed apartments or secondary suites. Wealthy homeowners can also donate to affordable housing projects, Rees says.
Where should people live?
Money isn’t necessarily a challenge in Summit County when it comes to affordable housing projects. US Federal bailout funds, housing tax credits for low-income people and other sources of both public and private funding are available, Jones says. And Summit County and the Municipality of Park City both have inclusive zoning codes that require 20% of all new development to be made available to individuals or families earning less than 80% of the region’s median income. .
However, finding properties that are zoned and licensed for such uses is extremely difficult in today’s market, Jones says. The county has set a target of 800 units to be completed by 2026, at least 133 units have been completed, and 372 more are on the way. The biggest obstacle to carrying out these projects is residents’ controversy over where local employees should live.
In February, for example, residents of the Highland Estates neighborhood in Park City opposed a high-density 410-unit project proposal, arguing it would ruin the quality of life there. The project would have offered units with rents as low as $ 627 for a studio and $ 896 for a three bedroom. A final decision has not been made on the project. Currently, many Park City rental listings advertise renting a single bedroom in a three bedroom unit for approximately $ 1,200.
Fortunately, or not, Park City workers may live in neighboring Wasatch, Salt Lake, and Morgan counties. The 20- to 40-minute drive gives people a greater choice of homes at cheaper prices, ranging from the median house price of $ 440,000 in Salt Lake County to $ 758,500 in Wasatch and $ 657,000. to Morgan.
Distance, however, comes at a high cost. In some mountain towns, parking is expensive – up to $ 100,000 per space – and could result in more parking garages, not to mention the environmental and financial costs of having more cars on the road. Salt Lake City has one of the worst air qualities in the world and has been on national lists for the worst sprawl. “It’s cheaper to build homes near jobs than to improve roads,” Rees says.
There are also social costs when people live away from their jobs. Daily commutes can put a strain on families, forcing parents to move away from their children and require more child care, even on weekends.
Jones says that in Park City, the challenge will be jurisdictional and will require deciding as a community where people should live. And, as other tourist sites around the world demonstrate, this can be a very difficult problem to solve. “You have to have strong political will,” Rees says.