THE PROBLEM

Mountain Town Overview

Mountain towns represent a unique situation of economic factors, housing supply, and complications with building new real estate. Summit County, Grand County, Pitkin County, and Eagle County account for the large majority of mountain towns. These towns fueled by economic activity from nearby mountain resorts create large influxes of population from the seasonal workforce during the winter months. Summit county has one of the lowest unemployment rates in America sitting at 2.0%, forcing small business owners to work long hours, or shut down portions of their operations because of the lack of supply. 

 

Homeowners are more likely to list an extra bedroom on Airbnb rather than renting it to the local community. Additionally, without subsidies or rent ceilings, seasonal workers making less than $40,000 a year often cannot afford rent. The problems for seasonal workers will only compound, as the front range of Colorado continues to grow at a pace faster than the national average, creating more tourism and a need for more housing for seasonal employees. 

A picture from Fraser, Colorado, the town in which our house is built.

These Colorado mountain counties are becoming some of the most expensive counties to live in across the nation. Like most places, after the recession and the housing bubble in 2007-2008, supply growth in housing slowed dramatically, then lagged to catch up to demand in recent years creating rising prices. When building began again, rather than building a variety of housing options to accompany all demographics, multimillion-dollar mansions out-paced smaller entry-level homes. In Grand County in 2017, the median home price was $297,000, and the Summit County median home price was $547,000, 2.52 times greater than the national average. Even more shocking, the average price of a single-family home in Summit County was $731,500 (Data USA); both Eagle and Pitkin county depict a similar picture in housing demographics.  

 

The accelerated growth in housing prices well out-paced wage growth, pricing many people out of homeownership in the region. The lack of supply and recent appreciation of homes has created a nearly impossible situation for first-time homebuyers in mountain regions. In order to revive the middle class and promote young families to move to mountain communities, flexible financing and an increased supply of entry level homes is a must. 

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Who it Affects?

  1. First-time home buyers

  2. Young Families

  3. Middle Class

  4. Year round residents

  5. Seasonal Workers

Buillding Permit Graph.png

Construction Challenges

  • Short Building Season

    • Construction can only primarily be completed during the months of May to September. Many sites must wait for the ground to thaw and the underground water to disappear before digging foundations or laying infrastructure.

  • Unpredictable Climate

    • Snow storms and freezing cause problems with construction timelines both increasing costs and time of construction.

  • Distance from Building Materials

    • Building materials must be shipped from the Colorado front range introducing more construction risk, time, and costs. 

  • Labor Shortages

    • General and sub-contractors struggle to find labor to complete builds with the unemployment rate under 2%. This causes construction sites to slow or stop complete while contractors look for laborers.

    • Contractors are more likely to take luxury home contracts rather than smaller, cheaper homes. In some cases making it impossible to build entry level homes at some times during the year.