Aspen: Demand drops for seasonal housing
ASPEN – Last year at about this time, workers lined up overnight in hopes of securing a lease at one of the government-owned housing complexes. Today, the seasonal apartments are still empty, and the interest in them is weak.
What a difference a year makes.
Terry Kappeli, the property manager at Burlingame seasonal housing near Buttermilk, said the complex is 54 percent full. Last year, it took only four hours to fill up the 92-unit complex on the day the leases were made available.
That was the second time in two years that those leases were secured in one day.
Last year and in 2007, many employers secured leases but didn’t have their employees moving in until November – a strategy that’s been more common in recent years as a way to guarantee housing for their seasonal workforce.
“Instead of filling up in the first few hours, it will take us a few months,” Kappeli said, citing the ongoing “economic problems.”
It’s the same story at the Marolt Ranch seasonal housing complex. Of the 100 units available, 17 have been spoken for, said property manager John Michaels.
“People aren’t putting their money down because they don’t have to,” he said, adding that last year the complex was sold out by Sept. 4; in 2007, all units were reserved by Sept. 7.
Michaels said he expects the units will fill up by November, and once a majority of them are secured, the race will start for others to snatch up the remaining.
“Once the market tightens, people start panicking,” he said.
Last year, seasonal workers started shopping for housing in June. While he has had some inquiries from people abroad, it’s not even close to previous years’ activity.
Michaels attributes the vacancies partly due to the fact that the construction industry has slowed down and there isn’t enough work. During last fall’s offseason, Marolt was home to 40 people who had work, he added. Another reason is that those don’t know if they have jobs yet haven’t committed to coming here for the season.
But perhaps the biggest contributing factor is that the Aspen Skiing Co. will not use H2B visas to hire foreign ski and snowboard instructors this year, as a result of the recession and changes in federal laws. The valley’s high rate of unemployment will allow the Skico to hire local workers.
The Marolt Ranch and Burlingame units in past seasons have been home to hundreds of foreign workers, predominately from South America.
Kappeli said units at Burlingame have filled much earlier in the last few years than what’s been the norm.
“Three years ago, it was very much like this year,” he said.
Michaels said the occupancy levels at Marolt are similar to 2002 and 2003.
“We had a good serious run of four years of being full in September,” he said.
Not filling the units early puts a strain on the budgets of both housing complexes because the monthly rent isn’t coming in, hurting the bottom line. Both the Marolt and Burlingame complexes operate as enterprise funds and are self-sustaining.
Michaels said he doesn’t intend to dip into the Marolt housing reserves to make up for the lost revenue.
To hold a unit at Marolt Ranch, a security deposit and first month’s and last month’s rent are needed. The current rental rate is $1,030 a month, and a maximum of three people can live in a unit.
To hold a unit at Burlingame seasonal housing, the same requirements as Marolt are in place. The current rental rate is $1,110, and up to two people can live in a unit.
Both complexes are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Michaels said he isn’t too worried about filling the units – housing is always a need once the season starts.
“It’s all good,” he said. “The people will come. The snow will fly, and the lifts will open.”