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Winter Park hopes cash can convince short-term rentals to house workforce

McKenna Harford
Sky-Hi News
Town Manager Keith Riesberg presented the Winter Park Town Council with a proposal that would offer cash to short-term rental owners who change their rental model to offer six-month or year-long leases to qualifying members of the workforce. The town would dedicate $325,000 for the program.
Robert Mendoza/Sky-Hi News

WINTER PARK — Recognizing the need for workforce housing ahead of the upcoming ski season, Winter Park is hammering out a new program that would pay cash to convert short-term rentals into workforce housing.

On Aug. 17, Town Manager Keith Riesberg presented the Winter Park Town Council with a proposal that would offer cash to short-term rental owners who change their rental model to offer six-month or yearlong leases to qualifying members of the workforce. The town would dedicate $325,000 for the program.

Town staff said they believe that with the money, the program could generate workforce housing units in the very near future and would have a larger and faster impact than the town continuing to pursue the acquisition of existing buildings or property development.



There was some discussion about potential pushback from property owners who are already long-term renting, but Riesberg noted the intent of the incentives is to make new units available for workers in Winter Park, thus helping the town’s existing businesses.

“The targeted entities to be benefited by the expense of public dollars are the businesses that generate the town’s revenue,” Riesberg said.

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Many of the program details have yet to be worked out, but the goal is to create around 40 workforce housing units as quickly as possible. Winter Park Resort has yet to announce opening day for the upcoming ski season, but the resort typically begins winter operations mid-November to early December.

“One of the issues we’re facing is getting through the next six months,” Mayor Nick Kutrumbos said of the affordable housing shortage.

Council members had a few questions about the program but overall voiced support for the idea and offered suggestions to expand it to property owners who don’t currently rent at all.

“I love this idea and I think it’s great,” council member Jenn Hughes said.

As the program was presented last week, businesses would rent the units from the property owners and then sublease to their employees. It would also use the town’s existing definitions for accessory dwelling units, so the rentals would have to meet certain requirements for eligibility.

“By structuring it this way, the property owner can hold the business owner responsible for any damage to their unit,” Reisberg said.

The program would offer $5,000 for six month leases for studios and one-bedroom units; $10,000 for year leases for studios and one-bedrooms; $10,000 for six month leases for two-bedrooms and three-bedrooms; $20,000 for year leases for two-bedrooms and three-bedrooms. The payments would be up-front and in addition to any rental income.

By the numbers:
Incentive for six monthsIncentive for one year
Studio or one-bedroom$5,000$10,000
Two- or three-bedrooms$10,000$20,000

Short-term rental owners would have to show that they have been operating their rental unit legally and in good standing over the past year to qualify for the incentive program. Kutrumbos suggested the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District as the boundaries for the program, so units within that area would be eligible.

Riesberg added that he was in communication with Fraser to see if the town board was interested in teaming up with Winter Park on the program.


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