By Paolo Zialcita, CPR News
The Town of Crested Butte has declared its housing shortage, an issue plaguing several of Colorado’s mountain communities, a local disaster emergency.
According to city officials, there is a severe lack of affordable housing units available for workers. Crested Butte Community Development Director Troy Russ said that’s preventing businesses vital to the town’s livelihood from staying open.
“Right now between 10 and 12% of our workforce, depending on the source, is unfilled,” he said. “so there’s concerns within the town that we won’t be generating sales tax to provide the level of service that our residents are accustomed to.”
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The resolution passed by the Town Council last week grants emergency powers to the town manager, such as the ability to bypass zoning regulations for upcoming projects.
In the same meeting, Crested Butte officials also approved the $2.3 million purchase of the Ruby Bed & Breakfast, which the town will use to house seasonal employees in both the public and private sector.
The hotel, described as a “near-term opportunity,” will offer dormitory style living for six residents, who will pay rent to the town.
“We make sure that the rent does not exceed 30% of their income. So we will lower the rent to 30 percent of an income. So we’ll offer that to the private sector in winters and then to our employees in the summertime,” said Russ.
Crested Butte is the first Colorado town to officially declare its housing shortage an emergency, but it’s not the first to consider it. Its neighbors to the northeast, Frisco, also has seen its workforce diminish from unaffordable housing.
Their town council is weighing the benefits of issuing a formal declaration like Crested Butte has. Frisco’s mayor Hunter Mortenson isn’t sure whether they could use emergency powers and instead sees it as a way to raise awareness of the issue. The town is still undecided on whether that would be the best way to directly address the crisis.