Steamboat sees more permanent residents

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— Ask people who moved to Steamboat Springs in the past two decades why they chose the Yampa Valley over all the other western valleys that contain ski towns.

They'll probably tell you it's because there is a real community here.

The 2000 U.S. Census supports that sentiment with hard numbers. Or at least supports the notion that Steamboat isn't afflicted with empty second homes to the same degree as other ski towns.

In Steamboat Springs, the percentage of housing units that are owner occupied grew by 76.5 percent during the past decade while the number of households and the overall population were growing at a slower pace.

"That tells me that the local housing market is being purchased by people who are living and working here to a greater degree than maybe we thought," City Council President Pro Tem Kathy Connell said.

The census put Steamboat's population at 9,815 and the total number of households at 6,373. The number of households represents an increase of 19 percent in the past 10 years and the population grew by 46.6 percent between 1990 and 2000.

The census counted 2,547 housing units in Steamboat during 2000 that were owner occupied, just a shade less than 40 percent of the total. That compares to 1,443 owner-occupied households in 1990.

During 2000, another 1,537, or 24.12 percent of local households, were renter occupied. And another 1,213 housing units were identified by the census as being vacation or second homes that remain vacant much of the year.

They represent about 19 percent of the total. Ten years ago, such homes made up 41 percent of the total housing in Steamboat.

Statewide, vacation or second homes represented 4 percent of the total housing in 2000.

In other ski towns, vacation homes made up a much higher percentage of the total population. For example, in Breckenridge, 68 percent of the 4,270 homes are vacation or second homes. Similarly in Vail, such homes account for 53.6 percent of the total.

Steamboat's ability to avoid the phenomenon of neighborhoods full of empty homes is also born out by census data on housing per capita.

One might expect that the ratio of housing units per person in Colorado towns would be expressed as a fraction meaning there are more people than there are homes. Statewide there were .42 homes per person in 2000.

In Steamboat Springs, the ratio was higher .65 homes per person.

But in many ski towns, that situation is even more exaggerated because of homes that stand empty for much of the year.

In Keystone, which has the highest ratio of housing to population in Colorado, there were 3.16 homes per person. Breckenridge had 1.77 homes per person, and Vail had 1.19. Winter Park had 1.86 homes per person.

Connell said she believes one of the most difficult aspects of resort town populations to account for in a census is the seasonal work force.

"We have a huge seasonal crowd like waves coming in and out," Connell said. "There are people who come and work for the summer, then go back to school in the fall. It's a huge amount of people."

Connell believes there is a real need for more rental housing in Steamboat to accommodate those people.

Steamboat had 1,537 occupied rental units in 2000, representing 24.12 percent of the total occupied housing in the city, according to the census.

That's more than the city of Vail itself, but very similar to the statistics for the Eagle-Vail corridor along Interstate 70.

Aspen leads both Steamboat and Vail in terms of rental housing by percentage.

Aspen has 1,407 occupied units, representing 32.3 percent of its total housing units.

Steamboat's supply of rental housing isn't that different from that of smaller towns in Routt County on a percentage basis.

Yampa has 51 occupied rentals representing 24.2 percent of the total, and Hayden has 194, or 29.5 percent. Craig, in Moffat County, has 1,203 units 31.2 percent of the total.

To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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