Local governments are scrambling to provide long-term housing for Summit County’s workforce, as a booming economy continues to drive prices skyward. According to Land Title Guarantee Company’s June 2016 assessment, the average price for a single-family home within the county jumped nine percent from 2015, up to $936,905 year-to-date.
In Breckenridge, prices increased 15 percent, with the average cost of a single-family home coming in at $1,451,331.
“When the average price of a single-family home is over $700,000, it’s hard for young workers and entrepreneurs to think of Summit County as a great place for them to launch a career, start a family or establish long-term bonds to the community,” Silverthorne Mayor Bruce Butler said in a statement. “The lack of available workforce housing has become an impediment to the economic growth and expansion for many local businesses and an obstacle for broader economic diversity.”
Each jurisdiction hosts a handful of opportunities for housing; Silverthorne has Smith Ranch, for example, and Frisco has Lake Hill. But no single solution is enough to address the growing need for housing in the county.
With this in mind, the Summit Combined Housing Authority — consisting of Breckenridge, Frisco, Silverthorne, Dillon, Montezuma and Summit County — will put a measure on the ballot this fall to raise an additional $7.8 million per year for a workforce-housing fund through a sales tax hike. If passed, the 0.6-percent sales tax increase would sunset after 10 years.
“The big question everyone thought we needed to move forward was asking for funding to get some construction going,” Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said. “The big question was, how?”
After months of discussion, Stiegelmeier said they settled on a smaller tax increase over a longer period of time. Sales tax was the preferred method over a property tax increase, as it didn’t require as large of an increase.
“To get the same amount of money with a mill levy, it was a high mill levy,” Stiegelmeier said, noting the increase would be between three and four mills. For a $500,000 home, an increase in four mills would result in a tax increase of about $2,000.
“That just seems like too much to ask,” she said. “It’s largely visitors paying (sales tax) so we get help from all of the tourists.”
Per Colorado law, the sales tax increase could not be applied to groceries, as it would essentially be taxing one necessity for another. Each town would collect the additional sales tax revenue and apply it to affordable housing initiatives within the area.
“Right now we’re in such a crunch where businesses are struggling to find employees that can find housing,” Stiegelmeier said. “Nobody likes taxes, but we know we need housing and services. When you think about it, people usually come around.”