Aspen renters find no shortage of rooms | VailDaily.com

Aspen renters find no shortage of rooms

Janet Urquhart/Aspen Correspondent

Aspen’s ski season is officially under way, but housing for ski resort workers is still far from full.

When short-term housing for the winter swell of workers was slow to fill last year, housing officials chalked it up to an anomaly. This year, it’s looking like a trend.

The Burlingame/MAA seasonal housing near Buttermilk still had 25 of its 92 units available last week. Some of the foreign workers who will probably fill up the complex are just now making their travel arrangements, said Mike Henry, property manager.

“The people who are calling – they’ve just received their work visas and are arrangement flights,” he said.

Marolt Ranch, another seasonal housing complex, had filled about half of its 100 units by last week, said property manager John Mickles. A one-bedroom unit there, including utilities and local phone service, runs $815 per month and renters often double up in a unit.

Rents at Burlingame/MAA are $1,006 per month for two-bedroom, one-bath units, including utilities and local phone service. For roommates, that’s $503 per person for a partially furnished pad.

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“People are not coming into town as early as they used to,” Henry said. “It was just a shock to us last year. This year, we budgeted for it.”

When the Burlingame complex opened four years ago, it filled up by mid-October. The following year, it was full by late November. This year is likely to be a repeat of last year, when the final tenants didn’t move in until mid-December.

Rent deals fail

Henry offered 75 percent off September rent for anyone who’d lease a unit for September through April, and 50 percent off the first month’s rent for tenants who leased a unit starting Oct. 1.

“We just did not get that much response on that,” he said.

Marolt, located off Castle Creek Road, used to fill up by the second week in September, Mickles recalled.

But in the old days, Aspen Highlands was independently owned and opened on Thanksgiving. More recently, Mickles believes a slowdown in the construction industry has lessened the demand for apartments.

“Things are dramatically softer. The demand is not there in September and October,” he said. “Now, it’s late November, early December.”

Marolt and Burlingame/MAA are both geared toward seasonal employees and used by Aspen Music Festival and School students during the summer months.

Year-round slump

Other, year-round rental units are sitting empty, too, though.

The city’s Truscott Place, deed-restricted as worker housing, had five empty units last week. After 99 new rental units opened there last year, the city heard grumbling from private sector, which blamed the city’s housing project for a slump in the rental market.

At Centennial, a privately operated housing complex for workers, 12 apartments were available last week.

Three, three-bedroom units were open at prices ranging from $1,704 to $1,787, plus utilities. Nine, two-bedroom units were also available at rents of $1,425 to $1,538, plus utilities.

“It’s a soft rental market for sure this year,” said Kim Keilin, Centennial property manager, though she said demand remains strong for smaller units at the complex. “I could rent studios and one-bedrooms all day long.”

Free-market flounders

Things are slow on the free market, as well.

“It’s horrible,” said Maureen Kerr, property manager at First Choice Properties. “It’s very unusual, especially for Aspen at this time.”

There are empty apartments up and down the valley, Kerr said. In Aspen, First Choice is trying to rent a pair of Aspen View condos for $1,550 a month. The owner has dropped the rent by $100 a month.

The units have been open since last May, but a fire in the building at the end of June shut down Aspen View while repairs were made. The condos are now ready for occupants, Kerr said, but the phone isn’t ringing.

In fact, the local classified ads indicate there are plenty of condos and rooms available for rent, as well as tenants seeking roommates.

Marta Steinmetz, who offers rooms for rent in the Conundrum Valley, still has one available, but that’s an improvement over last year, when four rooms sat open all winter.

Historically, her rooms filled up by the end of October, but that hasn’t been the case for the last few years.

“It was pretty empty during September and October – that was a little scary,” Steinmetz said.