Steamboat Springs City Council to consider allowing up to 6 people per multifamily housing unit
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — This year, 180 Steamboat Ski and Resort Corporation employees are living in a two-bedroom, two bathroom apartment with six people in the unit.
The city’s current community development code defines a family in a multi-family development as five unrelated persons, but a proposed ordinance could change the code to allow six unrelated people in an apartment, which would bring Ski Corp. into compliance with the code. The Ponds is currently in legal limbo, as the city has not enforced city code at the Ponds as both Ski Corp. and the city come to a solution.
Ski Corp. began placing six people in its two-bedroom units in 2017, according to previous Steamboat Pilot & Today reporting. Last winter, 30 units housed six people. That number remained the same this year, said Ski Corp. Vice President of Human Resources and Risk Management Trish Sullivan. There are 120 units total in the Ponds. The Ponds can house up to 482 seasonal employees, which Sullivan estimated was about a third of Ski Corp.’s seasonal workforce.
Employees living in the Ponds can elect to live in a six-person economy unit or a four-person standard unit, she said. All units are fully furnished with wireless internet, a full kitchen, living room and dining area.
Per month rent is $390 per person for a four-person unit and $260 per person for a six-person unit, Sullivan said. The median rent for a two-bedroom unit in Routt County is $1,365 according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This data factors in prices from more inexpensive locations in the county, such as Hayden and Oak Creek.
“It works well for a lot of our seasonal workers,” Sullivan said. “It’s very affordable. What we’ve seen over the years is that there’s a reduced number of housing for seasonal workforce across the community.”
She said that many places that once rented to seasonal workers are now on the market as nightly rentals through websites like airbnb.com and vrbo.com.
“We probably wouldn’t be having this conversation if it wasn’t for the Ponds, but the way the amendment has been presented to city council, it doesn’t just apply to the Ponds,” said Steamboat Springs Planning and Community Development Director Rebecca Bessey. “It would be across the city for any multiple family unit, and some of those multiple family units might have three bedrooms. They might have four. They might have one.”
Digging through census data, Bessey has not been able to determine how many multi-family units in Steamboat have one, two, three or more bedrooms.
“I think there are a number of multi-family units within our city that have more than two bedrooms and could very easily accommodate more than five people,” she said. “I don’t know what those numbers are, though.”
Loryn Kasten, a spokesperson for Steamboat Resort, said the company is supportive of changing the code community-wide.
“We have a housing situation right now, and we need to find current solutions,” she said. “This provides a current solution while we all tackle the long-term solution.”
Bessey said she does not believe the definition of family should be the means by which the city regulates the health and safety of rental units.
“Right now, our definition of family puts a limit of three unrelated people in a single-family home,” she said. “Typically, the single-family homes are much larger. So that, to me, says we’re not really focused on health and safety with this regulation.”
Steamboat Springs City Council will consider the ordinance on second reading Tuesday, Dec. 4. The ordinance passed with hesitation from some council members on first reading.
“Instead of forcing an employer to create more employee housing or pay their employees more so they can afford other housing, we’re allowing them to shove more people into rooms,” said Council Member Lisel Petis.
Ski Corp. has said the Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue chief and planning staff have toured the units and found them adequate.
“We don’t feel like we’re shoving more people into rooms,” Sullivan told council at its Nov. 13 meeting.
Petis said she feared that, in approving the code amendment, City Council would slide down a slippery slope of approving code changes at the request of employers.
Council member Sonja Macys said the group has already gone down the slippery slope, referring to council’s approval of a change of use, which brought Mountain Resort’s dormitory in the Alpiner Lodge to code.
The issue comes as seasonal employees settle into positions at the ski resort, which opened about two weeks ago.
“We’d have to take a look at it if it doesn’t go through, but we are hopeful this solution provides a way to house people in a community where housing for a seasonal workforce is really, really challenging,” said Sullivan.