Krista Miller, human resources director for the town of Vail, speaks to a group Friday during the Welcome Home Steamboat housing forum at Citizen’s Hall. Miller was addressing the audience as part of a panel discussing how to find housing solutions for locals.

Photo by John F. Russell

Krista Miller, human resources director for the town of Vail, speaks to a group Friday during the Welcome Home Steamboat housing forum at Citizen’s Hall. Miller was addressing the audience as part of a panel discussing how to find housing solutions for locals.

All-day forum in Steamboat Springs seeks housing solutions for locals


— After an all-day community forum on the topic of housing, Steamboat Springs Planning Director Tyler Gibbs had the unenviable job of trying to summarize seven hours of discussion and 20 pages of his own notes.

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The forum invited experts in all segments of housing to come together Friday in Citizen’s Hall to come up with solutions for locals. There were developers who’ve worked here and those who’ve built affordable projects elsewhere. There were real estate agents, lending professionals, heads of housing authorities, government officials and leaders of private companies on panels and in attendance. Members of the public at-large also were in the audience and able to participate during the day.

The day’s conversation was informative while also at times historical and soul-searching as Steamboat Springs residents who’ve been hearing about and wrestling with the issue of affordable housing for a very long time sought to define what would be different this time.

The city of Steamboat Springs currently is halfway through a two-year suspension of its community housing regulations, which creates an actual timer on the discussion of the vision for housing.

Despite the wide range of topics and discussion covered during the forum, there were some key takeaways.

“You’re here because you are concerned about preserving community character,” said David O'Neil, CEO and founder of Brynn Grey Partners, a Boulder real estate development and investment firm.

Creating community-wide goals emerged during the day as an important step along with how to measure progress toward those goals.

The public sector should be in the ends business (defining and measuring larger goals), O’Neil said, while the private sector is in the means business, left with flexibility to realize the community’s goals.

Speakers presented information about tools for affordable housing, multiple successful developments elsewhere, employer assisted housing strategies and more.

Steamboat residents at the forum pointed out that the region has a number of plans and vision documents that have yet to be realized.

Diane Johnson, general manager of Yampa Valley Electric Company, and Chris Tamucci, director of operations at Big Agnes, spoke about how housing presents a challenge in recruiting and retaining talent. However, as real estate agent Penny Fletcher pointed out, there seems to be some apathy in the community about deeming affordable housing a problem or determining how big of a problem it presents.

The idea of a survey or study to gauge the size of the affordability gap and its consequences was met with groans by members of the audience, but panelists and some of those in attendance agreed that strong leadership would be paramount to educating the community about the issue, getting feedback and finding housing solutions for locals.

“We will be back in touch as soon as possible,” Gibbs said at the end of the day. “We will not let this rest.”

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz


mark hartless 1 year, 4 months ago

"Affordability" is just another word for "cheap".

Why anyone has a right to expect "cheap" housing in a world-class ski town, relative to other markets, is beyond me.

Why anyone has a right to lean on a private individual, such as a developer, to provide this market anomaly, is also beyond me.

Are we to extend this "affordability" campaign to leaning on restaraunt and grocery store owners, gasoline distributers, car dealerships etc? Many of these have relatively high prices here too.

How many people go to Denver for their new car, flight to Cancun, truckload of groceries, etc?

Should we expect those who provide high-end accomodations on the ski hill to make a percentage of these lodging opportunities "affordable" by mandating they cost less than the others?

Where has this evdeavor to provide something the free-market clearly rejects ever actually succeded outside of it's own protected vacuum? Other than empowering some at the expense of others, what fruits will the efforts to shove the square peg into the obviously round hole ever yield??

Years ago we were told we needed cheap housing. A few years ago it got really cheap and people ran for their lives, took bankruptcy, left the valley altogether; lives were ruined. Today housing prices seem to be "recovering" and we are told that's bad again. For thoise who's life savings is in their housing, how is it bad that prices are rising? For every person temporarily aided by artificially low housing, there are dozens permanantly harmed.

Another aspect the do-gooders absolutelt refuse to acknowledge, much less address, is how "open space" , conservation easements, refusal of developments like 700, and dozens after dozens of parks, bike trails, etc flies in DIRECT OPPOSITION to affordability of the remaining real estate.


brian ferguson 1 year, 4 months ago

I remember paying $500 a month at Walton village in the mid 90's. The job I worked at the time paid $10 per hour, above average for the time for restaurant work. Walton village condos now rent for 800-1000 per month, and starting wages at restaurants and other lower paying jobs still average $10 per hour...20 YEARS LATER!!!


Scott Wedel 1 year, 4 months ago

If SB wants housing to be affordable for local workers then set the local minimum wage at $15 per hour.

Housing is driven by basic economics of supply vs demand. This is a resort area so if it is cheap then more people will come. If it is expensive to live here then fewer people come and more go elsewhere.

It makes no sense that this city spends so much subsidizing tourism and other economic activity and then is surprised that housing is expensive.


Michael Bird 1 year, 4 months ago

I do not have an answer or answers but I have noticed that over 50 years very little has changed regarding wages (income) and housing costs (rents). Rents are high and beginning wages are low in all resort areas including Colorado. Colorado and SBoat are not unique. There have been no solutions. The public doesn't want to pay for subsidized housing. Employees want cheap housing costs.. A landlord does not want to lose money renting . With $350 -400+ HOA fees a condo owner cannot rent at $500 monthly.Business owners cannot or will not pay high wages. So we have had 50 yr stagnation and a zillion meetings that have done very little toward solving this perpetual problem. Maybe this is like desiring world peace. An honorable but unobtainable goal.


Scott Wedel 1 year, 4 months ago


And that is exactly how the free market works.

Only effective plan I've ever seen is government making it easier to build additional housing units. Such as tap fees being free for suitability modest units and modest subsidies for higher density developments.


Jeff Kibler 1 year, 4 months ago

Before Riverwalk, Westland Trailer Park was affordable housing and had modest units. Now it lays bare, devoid of anything but dirt. Perhaps that might be a better site for the new police station and a Frisbee dog park.


mark hartless 1 year, 4 months ago

We elect and re-elect leaders who flood the nation with millions of "undoccumented workers" willing to work for small pay and then we lament our stagnant wage. Hillarious... Economic geniuses...

The surprise isn't that housing here is expensive, but that some people actually think it should NOT be... ditto for their stagnant wages.

You can't flood the market with Mexicans and expect wage inflation. You can't restrict development and expect cheap housing.


jerry carlton 1 year, 4 months ago

Democrats want illegals for votes and Republicans want illegals to keep wages cheap. American workers lose ground every year and wonder why.


Scott Ford 1 year, 4 months ago

I was one of those that groaned (likely the loudest) when it was suggested that yet another study was needed to assess the “affordability gap”. We do not need yet another study that will confirm what we already know. Let’s simply say:

1 -The “affordability gap” is big.

2 - Home prices were lower in 2011/12 and the "affordability gap" was smaller.

3 - Increase demand for desirable housing is resulting in higher prices.

4 – Home prices are increasing at a faster rate than wages.

5 - This is a trend that will likely continue for a while.

(Although I am a member of City Council my views are my own and may or may not be shared by my fellow council members.)


mark hartless 1 year, 4 months ago

"Life is hard; it's ever harder when you're stupid."--John Wayne

“I'd like to know why well-educated idiots keep apologizing for lazy and complaining people who think the world owes them a living.” ― John Wayne

It is supposed to be hard to get by on 40 hrs. 40 hr work weeks are for losers. Does anyone think those who came out here 150 years ago on a horse with $4 in their pocket had "affordable housing" waiting for them? They were lucky if they didn't freeze to death working 75 hrs/ week plus just to keep from starving.

Keep swelling the ranks with Mexicans willing to work for peanuts and live in qualor and just see what happens to your wages, folks...


John St Pierre 1 year, 3 months ago

The Rocky Mtn News front page had that Motto.... TIS A PROVILEDGE TO LIVE IN COLORADO>>>> many have forgotten its not a right !!!!!!


Scott Wedel 1 year, 4 months ago

So who is buying these houses? Apparently, it isn't wage earners. And yet demand is increasing.

And if there is increased supply of desirable homes then why wouldn't more of those non wager earners buy them and still keep prices unable for local wage earners?

Logically, it seems obvious that nothing can be done to lower housing prices to be affordable to local wage earners. Thus, the only other alternative is to raise local wages so that local wage earners can afford housing.

Therefore, SB City should discourage tourism to reduce the number of associated low wage service jobs. Or set a local minimum wage of $15 or so per hour so a wage earning family can afford housing. If the city isn't willing to take these stops to reduce the number of local wage earners unable to afford housing then they would rather the problem continue than solve it.


mark hartless 1 year, 4 months ago

Thats the silliest thing I've heard from you in a while...


Scott Wedel 1 year, 4 months ago


Silly how?

I think the presumably unacceptable nature of an effective solution suggests that the "problem" of affordable housing is not worth fixing.


Harvey Lyon 1 year, 4 months ago

Raising the minimum wage will only result in inflation of prices.....just as raising the available loans resulted in College Education prices going the end it will amount to nothing.

Home prices have gone down some 40% since 2007 in Steamboat and rental prices have either gone down or remained pretty flat.

The only way wages should go up is for those seeking employment to withhold until they achieve satisfaction between what is being asked of them and what they someone seeking a minimum wage job.


John Weibel 1 year, 4 months ago

If I am not mistaken, The ECB just went negative on rates it pays on deposits for member banks. Just wait a while and the market will correct again. At some point the interest rate pendulum will start to rise again and then asset values will stagnate until a peak is reached and rates begin to fall as they did in the early eighties bring ever cheaper money and an easier ability to cash flow a financed asset. (Values may rise as a result of the watering down of the US dollar as currency stocks are rising at 6+% per year though there relative value in relation to need items food and energy will decline). Just my opinion, but the current economic run may be short lived and then paying the bills for borrowed consumption will come due.


mark hartless 1 year, 4 months ago

You guys still aren't getting it. Wages and real estate prices are NOT linked... not any more. And they will never again be linked in your lifetime.

With regards to labor, downward pressure on wages is comming from the hoards of illegals pouring over our borders. This should be obvious to any run-of-the-mill idiot, but America is populated with some rather "special" idiots.

Lower living standards for the masses IS the future... PERIOD. Read that again real slow if you need to. It's not a maybe, it's a certainty which the electorate has baked into it's own cake and now they are gonna eat it!

When I say "living standards", I mean living standards on everything, not just on housing.

The masses are fools enough to support policies that will see their and their kids and grand kids electric bills, gasoline, food, etc rise as well; and I don't mean a wee bit!.

Meanwhile, housing prices rise, whether the masses can afford one or not because of all the restrictions on development, open space, conservation easements, ridiculous tap fees, expensive building permits, ridiculous taxes on materials, etc; none of which is really coupled to wage earners from Mexico cutting your throats down at the ole' salt mines. And what do the masses do?? They support even more restrictions on development, moan for more open space and parks, cheer for more taxes on the "evil developers and producers", etc because they are fools... period.

And Scott, if mandating a minimum wage was the solution why not mandate it at $50 or $100/ hr and let's all be "rich"?? Give me a break; I thought you were smart...


Scott Wedel 1 year, 3 months ago


I was say IF affordable housing is a problem that they want to solve then they'd push for a higher local minimum wage. A higher minimum wage would have other consequences, but if affordable housing is such a crisis for local workers then that would make housing affordable for the reduced workforce.


mark hartless 1 year, 3 months ago

It's NOT a crisis.

It's about individuals expecting society to part the seas for them so they can go to the front of the line and live in a world-class ski town without paying their dues somewhere else first, or while avoiding the pain of having 4 roommates to share the rent.

Don't like the house payment?? Move back in with mama and daddy, but stop putting a gun to society's head making demands that you be allowed to live in the most expensive places on earth without means.


Michael Bird 1 year, 3 months ago

Economists are supposed to be the experts regarding how raising the minimum wage would affect the marketplace BUT and it is a big BUT- they cannot agree. See Denver Post, June 15,2014, Section D, Page 1. So our opinions will always be divided just as their opinions are divided. Nothing is going to change in resort areas because people want to live in these communities and will "pay the price". All of the posted comments are a rehash of those expressed in 1970 or pick any year thereafter. Nothing new. Nothing different. Nothing changes significantly.

Also, for fun read Page 1, Section K "Average premiums exceed cost of unsubsidized plans by more than 20% - ACA info Subsidies will be 17 billion this year and 132 billion by 2024. Yes. in ten years - Congressional Budget Office.


Scott Wedel 1 year, 3 months ago

The standard economic analysis would be increasing minimum wage costs jobs as employers turn to automation to reduce labor needed.

The argument by those that say increasing the minimum wage will have minimum effects upon number of employees is that things have already been automated. That there is nothing left for Walmart, McDonalds and so on to automate to reduce their labor force.

The counter argument is that small businesses are not that automated

And then comes the question whether small businesses are in the process of automating so soon there will also be no labor costs to reduce via automation.

As for people wanting to live in resort communities and being willing to "pay the price" - for most the cost of that price matters and they cannot afford Aspen so they pick SB or so on.


mark hartless 1 year, 3 months ago

There is no such thing as "already automated".

In 1988 I stood atop a dirt pile on a VA construction site and made a cell phone call. Did I "already have a cell phone" ??? yes. Was no further "automation" in the cell phone business pending??? Of course not.

"They pick Steamboat and so on..." Yes, and those who can not afford Steamboat should shut up and move to Craig instead of demanding others pave their driveway...


Fred Duckels 1 year, 3 months ago

I think that it is time to resurrect Affordable Housing and our local government employees can use this info to demand even more pay and benefits and stick the developers and struggling private sector with the bill. This article definitely has purpose.


John Weibel 1 year, 3 months ago

There is plenty of new automation on the way, for those that are automated; groceries w self checkout; 3-d printing on homes; 3-d printing of parts at the local parts store; accounting, sales marketing efforts for small business'; in education one good teacher can provide the days lecture for math or science for many schools and then have work days where students help each other out, the teacher does or it happens on the web.

There is plenty of future automation out there. The big questions though would be, does that automation have a higher cost than people doing the work and how will government be funded if we continue to eliminate jobs this way. Really the flood of illegals is needed to continue funding big government as tax receipts will continue to lag the needed outlays as more gray and retire. That is unless the system is changed to tax all forms of production automated and human at the same rates.

Mark, it is very likely that we are out consuming the finite amount or resources on the third rock from the sun and unless further breakthroughs in fusion reaction come swiftly it does not matter what the policies are need items are going to go up in price and want items (a condo in steamboat) will fall - relatively. Though many will claim that it is government causing the problem, it is simply supply and demand. We have outsourced our production of most goods except the greenback which has no value and at some point the current account deficit will force a correction.

To the comment on economists, if you put a group of 40 economists in a room and ask a question about where we are headed you'll get 80 opinions/answers.


Fred Duckels 1 year, 3 months ago

This is the marketplace at work, go home and get a nights sleep.


brian ferguson 1 year, 3 months ago

Maybe we should just get rid of all the low paying jobs. There would be no need for affordable housing.


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