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Haymeadow groundbreaking celebrates local affordable housing momentum

Excitement, and a bit of snow, was in the air on April 19 in Eagle as Haymeadow stakeholders gathered at the site to celebrate one thing: forward momentum for affordable housing. 

Eagle County Commissioner Matt Scherr, Eagle Mayor Scott Turnipseed, Haymeadow Project Manager Michael Hood and RA Nelson Project Manager Barry Monroe wielded golden shovels and ceremoniously executed the groundbreaking of Haymeadow’s 7 Hermits project.

The seven buildings that make up Haymeadow’s 7 Hermits project will include 76 total units. Forty-three of the units are under contract with the Eagle County Housing and Development Authority to be sold via the Valley Home Store. Fifteen resident ownership units will be available for sale with a deed restriction. The remaining 18 units in 7 Hermits have typical Eagle Local Employee Residency Program deed restrictions.

Though, 7 Hermits makes up just one portion of the progress celebrated during Wednesday’s groundbreaking. The 76 condos the 7 Hermits project will introduce are only the beginning; with the entire Haymeadow project, hundreds more are on the horizon. 

The Haymeadow development project was approved and annexed by Eagle Town Council in 2014. A media release accompanying Wednesday’s groundbreaking described the in-progress Haymeadow development as a “660-acre conservation-oriented residential development which maintains 60% of the parcel as open space.” 

With this influx of total units incoming, Haymeadow owner and developer Brandon Cohen explained that the housing Haymeadow will provide will likely be the most affordable housing that will be found in Eagle. “Our ability to meet the community’s need for affordable housing through our partnership with Eagle County makes this day even more exciting and allows us to maximize our local impact,” Cohen said in a press release. “It’s a true win for everyone.”

In the wake of a shortage of affordable housing options for employees within Eagle County, the Haymeadow development project as well as other recent pushes toward establishing more affordable housing county-wide are marks of that progress. Those efforts, as well as efforts made by construction companies stepping up to meet such demands, were cause for Wednesday’s celebration. 

Local employee-owned contractor and construction company RA Nelson has started construction at Haymeadow. Cohen said that he and other developers landed on stick-built construction by RA Nelson for the Haymeadow units, including 7 Hermits, because “we didn’t want to sacrifice quality to lower the price points.”

Cohen emphasized that RA Nelson was selected for the job because of the quality of the company’s work as well as its local labor force. According to the April 19 media release, the Avon headquartered construction company had built “more than 3,700 units of affordable housing in Colorado mountain communities, with more than 1,000 of them in Eagle County.”

Barry Monroe, RA Nelson employee-owner and Haymeadow senior project manager said he is passionate about working to positively impact the local availability of affordable housing.

“It is particularly rewarding to build new housing here in Eagle, where many of our employees live and would like to purchase a home of their own,” Monroe said. “We are grateful to build this project.”

The 7 Hermits phase of development is set to wrap up construction in 2024. Pre-sale reservations can be made on the Haymeadow website, or by contacting real estate broker Scott Schlosser. The 43 units that are being sold in partnership with the Eagle County Housing Authority and available through the Valley Home Store are not open for pre-sale reservation through Haymeadow. 

The 7 Hermits condos will be the first seven buildings of Haymeadow’s entire development. Wednesday’s groundbreaking marked the beginning of a massive affordable housing project.
Courtesy photo

Innovative housing project on Eagle’s Third Street a product of collaboration

Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley is piloting modular housing in a 16-unit Eagle housing development that, with collaboration from the Eagle County School District, the town of Eagle and Eagle County, will be hitting the ground later this year.

The Third St. Housing project was approved by Eagle town council on Nov. 8, 2022. Since, the town looked to receive additional project funding from local government grants established through the Department Of Local Affairs Innovative Affordable Housing Strategies House Bill 1271.

The House Bill established a pot of money for two types of grants, one that helped municipalities plan to incorporate more affordable housing options efficiently, and another that would cover infrastructure costs and impact fees.

Habitat for Humanity Director of Development Elyse Howard said that in late 2021, Eagle was among the first municipalities to receive the planning grant established through House Bill 1271. With that grant, Eagle Town Planner Peyton Heitzman said the town hired two consultants. The consultants, including the Denver-based company, Economic Planning Systems, worked to develop Eagle’s recently finalized housing assessment.

The updated site plan for Habitat for Humanity’s collaborative project in Eagle details how the 16 residences will fill the plot of land donated by the Eagle County School District.
Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley/Courtesy Image

(The housing assessment) really provides a lot of data on the housing needs within the community,” Heitzman said.

Additionally, consultants are updating Eagle’s land-use code and are strategizing to make the code more affordable-housing-friendly.

“Since we’ve been going through this whole housing assessment, we really have data to show the need that we’re all feeling in the community,” Heitzman said. “That the supply just can’t keep up with the demand.”

On top of the planning grant, this March, the town was awarded $1.1 million through the Innovative Housing Opportunities Incentive Grant for infrastructure costs and impact fees of the Third St. housing project.

Heitzman said the community met a certain number of qualifying strategies within House Bill 1271 that qualified the municipality to apply for both sets of incentive funds.

“The timing of everything really did work out from getting this data, seeing the numbers, seeing that we have a housing affordability gap of over half a million,” Heitzman said.

“It’s really exciting to see the money coming to Eagle County. Whether it comes to Habitat or not, just getting it into the community I think is just a really beneficial thing for the entire community,” Howard said.

Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley project leaders visited the Buena Vista modular home contractor Fading West’s site for insight on the build process and the products the manufacturer offers.
Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley/Courtesy Photo

Howard said because Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization, having strong partnerships like with the town of Eagle made a world of difference in securing funding for its affordable housing projects.

“In this case, this particular bucket of funding has to be awarded to a local government,” Howard said. “It’s a really good example of partnership and collaboration. I think that’s how stuff is getting done.”

Howard explained that with the funding only available to local governments, there is incentive for collaboration between municipalities and developers, which can help communities better address housing challenges.

In many ways, the Third St. project looks a lot like other Habitat for Humanity housing initiatives in the valley. Per the nonprofit’s usual practice, aspiring local homeowners work through a homeowner education curriculum and complete equity hours either on the construction site or in the Gypsum Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Though unlike former projects, in the valley, the Third St. housing project is bringing even more innovation to the table in order to address the need for affordable homeownership opportunities locally.

This development project, in agreement with the Eagle County School District will reserve 12 of its 16 units for school district employees, including teachers.

Howard said the school district donated the land to Habitat for Humanity for potential educator housing.

“When you’re trying to build housing that’s affordable to our workforce, typically it costs more to build housing than what you can sell it for,” Howard said. “Habitat is a nonprofit, so that is our mission. But, when we have a donation of land like the school district did, that goes a long way to supporting the outcome of affordable home ownership.”

Additionally, Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley’s Director of Special Projects Emily Peyton said the income requirements to qualify for this Eagle deed-restricted housing will change compared to past projects. Typically, the nonprofit serves families earning between 35 and 80% of Area Median Income. However, in this Habitat for Humanity development, the nonprofit is piloting going up to 100% Area Median Income on twelve of the sixteen units, which will be spoken for by school district employees.

Peyton said going up to the 100% Area Median Income will allow more educators to qualify for home ownership they still might not be able to otherwise afford.

“It’s gotten really expensive to own in Eagle—it’s a highly desirable community,” Peyton said. “We’re seeing people in our critical workforce, whether it’s teachers or police officers, healthcare workers, Eagle County workers— they’re making a decent wage, but it’s still not enough to purchase a home.”

Excited to bring this homeownership opportunity to local educators, Peyton said Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley is also excited to do so at a quicker pace than normal. The Third St. project will also pilot modular home construction for the nonprofit.

Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley is enlisting modular home manufacturer Fading West for the builds.

The Fading West modular home manufacturer factory is pictured above. Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley is embarking on its first modular home build project on Eagle’s Third St.
Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley/Courtesy Photo

“It’s really going to accelerate the speed of construction because the site work will run simultaneous to the homes being built in the factory,” Peyton said.

Peyton said boxes will start arriving on-site in the third quarter of 2023.

Now, project coordinators are through the entitlement phase and are preparing to submit building permits.

“We will get started on the infrastructure once the grant is under contract and as soon as the weather allows,” Peyton said.

The application cycle is closed for aspiring homeowners of the Third St. project. Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley received almost 100 applications for the 16 units.

“That’s a very competitive process,” Peyton said. “With the recent housing crisis that we’re experiencing, we’ve seen an increase in demand for our product. I think that this project is a response to that. Historically, we’ve been building at a pace of about six to eight homes a year. In 2023, with this project we’ll be breaking ground on 24 homes. So, we’re kind of tripling the production this year to help meet the demands and needs of our community.”

Third St. project leaders credit the collaboration of many to help make these homes available to educators and others seeking affordable housing within the community. With the town of Eagle, Eagle County and the school district’s collaboration with Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley, Howard said things were really able to get off the ground.

Eagle Town Manager Larry Pardee said the fact that the town received the funding for this project is a celebration of the collaboration of involved partners.

“It’s a small piece of a large complex puzzle in terms of affordable housing for the greater valley, but it’s something to be celebrated,” Pardee said.

Police: Common red flags for rental scams in Eagle County

Most Eagle County residents are aware of the monumental struggle that has become the local search for housing. Many renters are now becoming all too familiar with an array of scammers attempting to take advantage of an already slim housing market at the expense of scrambling residents-to-be. Vail Police suggest those on the housing hunt take caution. 

For quick, free and easy access to the local rental market, it’s clear why many potential renters take to sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or VRBO. A new dream winter rental, someone’s very first apartment, a rental with room for the whole family can all be at one’s fingertips through websites like these. However, disguised among the legitimate housing options are fraudulent listings with scheming scammers on the other side of the screen. 

Vail Police Department detective Greg Schwartz suggested potential renters take caution while on the hunt for their next home. He said that identifying red flags is an important way people can protect themselves from scammers.

Red flag one: No in-person viewing

Red flag number one? Schwartz said not being able to physically see the property can be a big indication of a scam.

“There are absentee landlords, but not as many as you’d really think,” Schwartz said. 

He explained that in many cases, fraudulent landlords will deny renters an in-person showing of the property, saying it’s currently occupied. Despite this, scammers can convince aspiring renters to send money in order to “secure the space” for their move-in.

Schwartz said that recently, a case came to the Vail Police Department with a similar type of scam. In this situation, the scammer had even provided the prospective renter a local address, so he could drive by to view the property despite its occupancy. 

“So, when he went to move in, a neighbor said, ‘Oh no, that place isn’t for rent. I know the owners and I know the people who live there and yeah, they’re not renting it out,’ and it was kind of a shock,” Schwartz said. 

The detective advised against sending money to any projected landlord without an in-person viewing of the property.  

“Really, truly, if you’re not able to see the property, it’s a scam,” Schwartz said. “And by ‘see the property,’ I mean ‘enter the property,’ not just pictures.”

With populations flocking to Eagle County for the winter, Schwartz said scammers are largely targeting people who are coming to the valley from elsewhere and might not even be able to physically view a property anyway. He explained that in these situations, renters must be extra careful to verify a rental property’s legitimacy before sending hard-earned money someone else’s way. 

Schwartz said writing a check to a physical local address or having someone meet a landlord or property manager at the site are good ways to legitimize the transaction. 

Red flag two: Suspicious payment requests

Another red flag that Schwartz warned those looking for rental properties about is the landlord’s preferred payment method. Payment methods that allow a recipient to remain more anonymous should raise renters’ caution, he said. 

“What (the scammers) do is they advertise the property and then they require payment only either through Zelle or a direct wire transfer to a bank account,” Schwartz said. “Usually, the bank accounts that those deposits are going into have been opened fraudulently and the money is then transferred out pretty quickly.”

It’s possible for law enforcement to track where a deposit goes once it is sent to a potential scammer, but Schwartz said the process is rather difficult. In an attempt to remain untraceable, scammers typically bounce money around from account to account. 

“We write a search warrant for the first account and yep, that money was there for three days and then it’s transferred to another account,” Schwartz said. “That can kind of go on and on for a while.”

After tracking funds from account to account, Schwartz explained that oftentimes, the money finally lands in a bank account with a foreign IP address. Because local police do not have the jurisdiction to write search warrants to foreign banks, the detective said searches typically fizzle once money hits a foreign bank account.

Another payment method Schwartz warned renters about are gift cards. Many scammers, in an effort to remain even more untraceable, request that renters send their payments via gift card. Schwartz said this request should be considered an immediate red flag.

“No real landlord is going to require 10 Best Buy gift cards for rent, you know,” Schwartz said. 

Schwartz said renters seeking housing need to use their better judgment and understand what requests seem legitimate and what requests might tip off a scam. Things not completely adding up is another red flag Schwartz advised renters to be wary of. 

Red flag three: Dissonance

An example of things not adding up with a landlord could be name consistency, Schwartz said.

“A lot of the time when a fraudulent landlord is requesting Zelle payments or wire transfers to bank accounts, the names don’t match whatever name they’ve been emailing back and forth with—it doesn’t match the information being provided,” Schwartz said. “So, that should be a significant red flag any potential tenant should look out for.”

Finding inconsistencies like names not adding up across accounts can take a keen eye. A media release from the Vail Police Department said that scammers targeting Eagle County renters are doing whatever they can to make themselves seem more legitimate and get sent money. For example, securing a local burner number may be enough to fool a prospective tenant. 

“Many scammers use a local phone number generated by web-based Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services that are available to anyone without any verification of identity required,” the release read. “Officers have taken several complaints initiated via a Craigslist ad which resulted in prospective renters wiring money to scammers.”

Rental red flag four: It’s too good to be true

The final red flag Schwartz warns against is when a listing simply seems too good to be true. Perhaps the cost is hundreds or maybe thousands lower than similar properties in the area, maybe it’s the fact that they’d allow five dogs without question or maybe it’s a location so desirable that it seems strange to even have a shot at it. Regardless, dreams of the perfect rental can come shattering to reality when scammers are in the mix. 

“If it seems too good to be true, it is,” Schwartz said. 

Renting online may seem much more intimidating with scammers attempting to take advantage of an already difficult market. However, Schwartz said law enforcement is always available to help. Whether it’s the Vail Police Department or another law enforcement agency in the valley, Schwartz said officers would be happy to review property advertisements and landlord interactions to see if they can spot anything “fishy.”

Schwartz said officers can help renters try to spot red flags among listings and help them determine how to move forward. 

“We’re always available to help,” Schwartz said. “If anyone has questions before they send that money, and in general, you know, no one should be sending money to someone they don’t know or haven’t met or haven’t spoken to.”

Precaution in situations like finding rentals is crucial, Schwartz said. 

“I think a lot of it is driven by the housing shortage that we have,” Schwartz said. “People are willing to go for something too good to be true, which is obviously unfortunate that we’re going through that valley-wide.”

While many may struggle to remove their rose-colored glasses when it comes to scam rental listings, it may be helpful to remember that law enforcement success in catching culprits of rental housing scams is incredibly slim. 

Scammers tapping into the local housing market are typically not from around here, Schwartz said. 

“A lot of these scams are international, you know, just kind of like the Nigerian prince scam from back in the day,” Schwartz said.

The “Nigerian prince scam” that Schwartz referred to is a popular version of the ancient “Spanish prisoner swindle,” both advance-fee scams, which involve scammers approaching recipients and convincing them to send money in order to retrieve an even larger sum of money, which of course, is never retrieved or returned. According to CNBC, the “Nigerian prince scam” still yields over $700,000 for scammers annually. 

Schwartz said scammers across oceans can be successful in taking locals’ money because they have done their research. He said they likely understand that the valley is a housing hotspot and know people may be willing to go to further odds for what they think will be their future housing. 

Similarly, with a little extra effort, Schwartz explained how scammers make their listings seem more believable.

“Typically, the person renting out the apartment fraudulently will take over somebody else’s post, or they’ll get pictures from Zillow so it adds a level of legitimacy to it,” Schwartz said. “They’ll pull maps and pictures and things like that. It’s all stuff that’s available on the internet.”

With the large sums of money rental scammers are dealing with, Schwartz said even one potential renter taking the bait after publishing hundreds of ads can end up being worth the effort for the accomplishment of defrauding somebody.

Despite the fact that they are typically difficult to catch, scammers are not impossible to identify. Schwartz said the Vail Police Department has successfully solved a couple of scammer cases. Without the scammers living locally, however, he explained that the consequences are elusive. 

“I was able to write an arrest warrant and had probable cause to write an arrest warrant for a girl who was doing this out of Texas,” Schwartz said. “Whether or not she’ll be arrested and brought back here to Colorado, that’s very unlikely and even if she is arrested, getting the money back is also very unlikely.”

Victims of scams can attempt to get reimbursed for the money they lost through the restitution process in the courts, however, Schwartz said total reimbursement is uncommon. 

“I think something that some of these tenants need to keep in mind is that with fraud, the chance of getting the money back is very slim, even if we’re able to determine who the offender is,” Schwartz said.

Reporting a rental scam

If those searching for rental properties encounter listings with multiple red flags for scam potential, Schwartz said reporting the listing to law enforcement is often a good idea. 

He also suggested people report the email addresses of scammers to the FBI-operated collection database for fraudulent activity. 

“Their analysts collect and evaluate all this data and that’s how the FBI is able to try and track some of the stuff on a more international level,” Schwartz said. 

The database can be accessed at www.ic3.gov. To reach the Vail Police Department, call 970-479-2201. 

Breckenridge commits $50 million to ambitious workforce housing plan

The driveways of condominiums at Winterpoint Townhomes are pictured Feb. 18 in Breckenridge. The town of Breckenridge plans to invest $50 million to bring 970 affordable housing units to the town.
Michael Yearout/For the Summit Daily News

A Breckenridge plan to invest $50 million into workforce housing over the next five years could result in 970 additional units for workers living within town limits.

The Breckenridge Town Council gave its approval of the Five-Year Housing Blueprint at its meeting Tuesday, Feb. 22. The blueprint outlines the town’s goal to have 47% of the town’s workforce living in Breckenridge. Additionally, the plan aims to create a balance of 35% resident housing to 65% vacation or resort lodging in the community.

Although Breckenridge itself will be committing $50 million, town officials hope to leverage partnerships and projects with private developers and existing homeowners into a total $300 million investment into housing over the next five years.

The town’s short-term rental fee, which the council passed in November 2021, will help fund the $50 million investment. The fee requires every short-term rental license owner to pay $400 per bedroom to support the town’s workforce housing initiatives.

“There has been a lot of questioning of ‘what are we doing with our money’ in the last few months,” Town Manager Rick Holman said at Tuesday’s meeting. “… While we’ve always known that we’re doing great things, this is a step that we can possibly point to.”

The ultimate goal is to reach 970 new units. Broken down, town officials anticipate around 600 newly constructed apartments and homes and 370 existing units converted to long-term workforce housing.

Town officials felt it was time to address what has become a “housing crisis,” said Laurie Best, planning manager for housing and child care at the town of Breckenridge. By 2023, Breckenridge is expected to have a housing need of 1,173 units, according to the 2020 Summit County Needs Assessment.

With the onset of the pandemic, preexisting housing issues in Breckenridge and Summit County have only escalated with many employers struggling to hire because potential employees can’t find a place to live, Best said.

“Our employers are unable to recruit and retain employees,” she said. “The people that have been here for a while are often making difficult decisions to relocate and move away. So it felt like the right time to take a big and bold step forward.”

The town is already involved in three ongoing workforce housing projects. Construction has already begun on the first phase of the Alta Verde project, which will bring a total of 80 apartments to the McCain property between Coyne Valley Road and the Fairview Boulevard roundabout. The council gave final approval to Alta Verde II on Tuesday, which will add 172 low-income units on the McCain property.

Another project at the Summit County Justice Center is expected to add 98 units, and the Block 11 project on Dredge Drive will add 27 deed-restricted units by January 2023.

Best said the town plans to pursue partnerships with developers like Gorman & Co, which is working on the Alta Verde project, to add more workforce housing over the next five years. However, new construction alone won’t solve the problem, she said.

“We cannot and do not want to build our way out of this,” Best said.

She said the constraints on a resort community, like a lack of available land, prevent the town from being able to solve housing issues with construction. The town plans to leverage its existing programs — Housing Helps and Buy Downs — to influence current homeowners to convert already existing units into long-term affordable housing.

The programs incentivize homeowners who are selling their homes to add deed restrictions so that they aren’t later converted to short-term rental properties.

“If you were to build everything brand new, you would overburden the town to a greater extent than we’re already at,” Mayor Eric Mamula said at the meeting. “That’s why the Buy Down program is so important.”

All of the Town Council members were supportive of the plan. Best said staff will be presenting updates on the plan twice a year at public Town Council meetings.

Summit County, towns discuss emergency declaration as affordable housing shortage intensifies

New housing units in the Smith Ranch neighborhood in Silverthorne are under construction Monday, May 31. Summit County municipalities are considering emergency declarations related to housing.
Photo by Sawyer D'Argonne / sdargonne@summitdaily.com

Summit County and local towns are considering an emergency declaration to help address the local affordable housing shortage and emphasize the increasingly dire circumstances of the issue to state and federal partners.

Commissioner Tamara Pogue said the county is already drafting language for a declaration and is hoping to make the move in conjunction with local towns.

“I’ve been working on housing in Summit County for 15 years, and this is far and way the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Pogue, the former executive director of the Family & Intercultural Resource Center. “I think it actually is connected to things that happened in our community during the pandemic. We know that a lot of folks moved into our community full time. … I think that has significantly impacted our housing stock, and has contributed to the tightness in the market and the availability of workforce housing that we currently don’t have.

“So I think we have to call it what it is. … This isn’t a new problem for us. But it is significantly worse than it’s ever been. Prices are higher, availability is lower and there are more people living here.”

According to the most recent Summit County Housing Needs Update published in March 2020, there is a countywide gross gap of more than 1,200 housing units, a number that’s expected to more than double by 2023. Officials said the issue has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which spurred an exodus of seasonal workers who were later priced out by a record-breaking year in the real estate market as more remote workers and second-home owners took up residence.

Frisco Mayor Hunter Mortensen said despite Frisco’s best efforts in recent years to combat the lack of affordable housing for members of the town’s workforce, the problem has persisted to the point where it’s become a “real and dangerous threat to our way of life in Frisco.”

Mortensen said he doesn’t blame the newcomers — Frisco is a great place to live — but the housing shortage has created an overly competitive landscape were the town and local businesses are pitted against each other for employees. Given the government’s reliance on local businesses to succeed, the situation is far from ideal.

“We can’t get any bigger,” Mortensen said. “We’ve built to our outer limits. Our ability to get more units is extremely limited by that, and that’s part of what’s facilitating this push for a declaration and looking at this as an emergency. I think seeing that then creates the issue of how do we get from 60% second-home owners and bring that number down, get some more rental units … get more real estate that forever was where people lived and now are getting squeezed out by the folks who are coming in and can work a really high paying job remotely.

“That then affects all of our local businesses, because we are losing that workforce. Right now, it’s set us up in a position where all of the towns are competing with all of our businesses for workers. And that’s a terrible setup to be in as a community because the town doesn’t exist without successful businesses.”

Graphic by Taylor Sienkiewicz / tsienkiewicz@summitdaily.com

Breckenridge is also supportive of an emergency declaration or anything that will help with the current housing situation, according to Breckenridge Town Council member Dick Carleton.

“We’re going to assess the best way to do it, whether it’s individually or together (with other governments),” Carleton said. “But we’re certainly supportive. We’re working really hard with housing, and we want to do anything that may help with funding or to get some support from the state or the feds.”

Towns have developed programs over recent years to help keep the workforce in the county, such as the Housing Helps programs developed by Breckenridge and Frisco that pay new or existing property owners to place deed restrictions on their units. But the initiatives may have been too little too late.

“We lost the race, and the buying power of people coming to town became way more powerful than we could keep up with,” Mortensen said.

While areas like Frisco are out of land to develop, building more housing is still a key tactic for other towns like Silverthorne. Town Manager Ryan Hyland said the town is in conversations with contractors to bring more rental units to the Smith Ranch area and the Fourth Street North development that would target specific community members based on income.

As the county and other towns prepare for an emergency declaration, Silverthorne is expected to pursue other options, Hyland said. He noted that the Silverthorne Town Council could consider other avenues to further bring the issue to light, such as a proclamation that would stop short of declaring a formal emergency. But the town hasn’t downplayed the housing issues that have developed of late.

“(Silverthorne) used to be a bit more affordable than some of the other areas,” Hyland said. “It’s just caught up really quickly. Willowbrook is the type of neighborhood that historically we would look at as something a lot of locals were considering — maybe a first home is something that would be possible. And we’re seeing prices at $800,000 and up now. While it’s not maybe at the same level as it would be in Breckenridge, it’s still really out of touch.

“There could be at least a couple hundred rental units that we could bring online … but the challenge is you’re a couple years away from getting folks into units. So while we’re excited about those opportunities, they’re not anything that’s immediate.”

The entrance to Smith Ranch in Silverthorne is pictured May 14, 2020. The Silverthorne Town Council recently gave the green light to Phase 5 of the workforce housing neighborhood.
Photo by Liz Copan / Summit Daily archives

It’s also unclear if Dillon will join in the declaration. Mayor Carolyn Skowyra said the Dillon Town Council hasn’t formally broached the topic, but council members do intend to have the conversation at some point. Skowyra spoke for herself, saying that she was disinclined to make any sort of declaration unless it would lead to an actionable response.

“It makes all the sense in the world if it helps us to an end product that helps the situation,” Skowyra said. “If we’re not going to be taking any measurable action, I’m not sure it’s a wise use of an emergency declaration. But we’re going to talk about it.”

Officials planning to move forward with an emergency declaration are hoping that it will bring more people to the table to find solutions, including short-term rental owners who might be swayed to try long-term renting once the impacts of the workforce shortage begin to manifest this summer or business owners who might work with developers to build more housing for their own employees.

Local leaders also hope the declaration would better highlight the need for state and federal support to address the issue. State Rep. Julie McCluskie, who serves Summit County and the rest of Colorado’s District 61, said housing solutions have become a top priority for legislators at the Capitol. McCluskie is a sponsor of House Bill 21-1271, a bill meant to remove barriers and provide incentives for the development of affordable housing by local governments.

If passed, the bill would allocate $13 million — potentially up to $48 million if an amendment to the bill is passed — to create grant programs for governments that adopt policies and regulations that promote affordable housing development.

But the bigger boon will come from $3.8 billion in federal stimulus money coming to Colorado as part of the American Rescue Plan Act. McCluskie said the state is planning to set aside between $400 million and $500 million to invest in housing initiatives throughout the state. There’s no set plan for how exactly that money will be spent — those details would likely be finalized in the next legislative session — but McCluskie said that amount of money represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the long-term housing conversation in Colorado.

“We have never had $400 (million) or $500 million to invest in something as critical as housing,” McCluskie said. “To have this opportunity to make real, lasting impact on the affordable housing supply and inventory I think is very powerful — a moment that deserves the time, the attention, the conversation and collaboration with all of the key partners and leaders across the state who are intimately aware of what the problems are.”

Rep. Julie McCluskie speaks at an event Sept. 3, 2020, in Dillon. She is a sponsor of House Bill 21-1271, which is meant to remove barriers and provide incentives for the development of affordable housing by local governments.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography