Second homes help job market

But work force struggles to find affordable housing

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Second-home owners are driving job growth, but increasing housing costs are making it harder to accommodate a work force, particularly as the current work force ages, retires and sells homes that are no longer affordable for their replacements.

Those were the conclusions the Northwest Council of Governments came to while using census data and other surveys to assess the effects of second-home owners on five mountain counties in Colorado.

Linda Venturoni, special project director for the Northwest Council of Governments, presented those findings during Thursday's Colorado Municipal League Conference in Steamboat Springs.

Venturoni was one of three speakers for the conference's session on demographic changes and Colorado municipalities.

The Northwest Council of Governments did a study of second-home owner effects for Pitkin, Eagle, Summit, Grand and Jackson counties, Venturoni said. On July 8, the organization is sponsoring a symposium in Vail to discuss the study and the effect of the influx of second-home owners.

Nationally, Venturoni pointed to the baby boomers, ages 55 through 64, driving the growth of second homes. The country is three years into the 18-year trend, she said.

In the five counties studied, second-home owners occupied 60 percent of the housing units.

"Locals are the minorities," Venturoni said.

From the data the organization collected, Venturoni found the second-home owners in the five counties have a much higher income than other second-home owners throughout the country. The surveys also indicated that 40 percent of the second-home owners owned at least three homes.

In spending habits, second-home owners spent five times as much as year-round residents on services such as lawn care, home security, pest control and house cleaning. They also spent money for more luxury services such as caterers, masseuses and feng shui specialists.

Showing a graph for Summit County, Venturoni pointed out that job growth exceeded population growth, while the number of skier days has remained relatively flat.

"It is not the ski business that is driving growth; something else is," she said. "For the whole four-county area (excluding Jackson), second-home owners drive more jobs than winter tourism."

Forecasted data shows that the demand for labor eventually will exceed the supply, Venturoni said.

"The question is, where do we house those workers?" she said.

Four types of households are in these towns, Venturoni said: year-round residents with deed-restricted affordable housing, free market residents who are part of the work force, the active retirees and the classic second-home owners.

The study looked at how the housing market would affect year-round residents in the next 10 to 20 years.

While second-home owners are creating more jobs, Venturoni said the dilemma will be created when the free-market locals retire in 10 to 20 years. Those people bought their homes years ago, when housing was affordable for working-class residents -- it is not any more.

"When we retire, we are going to sell to active retirees and second-home owners because it will be so expensive the work force won't be able to afford to buy it," she said.

Although active retirees contribute to the community, they are not the work force. Quite the opposite, they and second-home owners drive demand for a larger working class to meet their needs.

The problems will be where to house the work force that will take over for today's generation of free-market workers.

"The cost of not housing the work force can be enormous," she said.

Jerry O'Donnnell, a public information officer from the U.S. Census Bureau, talked about new census data available for larger Colorado municipalities. State demographer Jim Westkott discussed the services his office provides for municipal data collection.

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