Big Billie’s, Shandoka and Big Billie’s Are All Full
TELLURIDE – The slow off-season months in Telluride and Mountain Village typically see an increase in seasonal employees looking to work at the Telluride Ski Resort, the region’s largest employer. But for the 2013-2014 ski season, affordable housing in the region for these employees is increasingly scarce.
The number of applicants hoping to live at the Village Court Apartments in Mountain Village, for example, far exceeds the number of available units, according to complex manager Steven Spencer.
“It’s safe to say that VCA is effectively 100 percent full through the ski season,” he said. Many Telski employees choose to live at VCA because it offers six month leases that closely match the length of the ski season.
The Shandoka Apartment complex in Telluride is facing a similar shortage.
“Basically, if you’re applying to live in Shandoka you’re dependent on someone flaking out on an application that’s ahead of yours, or a surprise move-out that we don’t expect,” said Shandoka manager Dave Johnson. Still, Johnson encourages people to apply for housing there, “because openings do occur.”
Big Billie’s, the Telluride Ski and Golf Co.-owned affordable housing complex in Mountain Village, is facing the same pressure, according to complex manager Jeremy Flint.
“Big Billie’s is 100 percent full,” Flint said. “There is no way around it. We have about 50 people on the wait list. We filled up extremely quickly this year.”
Big Billie’s offers Telski employees $200 per month stipends for the 2013-2014 ski season, provided they’re in good standing with the apartment complex and their managers.
The sudden lack of affordable employee housing for seasonal workers puzzles San Miguel County Regional Housing Authority Executive Director Shirley Diaz.
“The reason for the shortage? I simply don’t know,” she said. Housing for seasonal workers was nowhere near this scarce last year, she added.
At first, Diaz suspected the housing shortage was due to Telski hiring more seasonal employees than last year, but Telski’s human resources staff says there was not an increase in employees, according to Diaz.
Telski officials did not respond to multiple requests for an interview or comment from The Watch before this article went to press.
While Diaz is researching the reasons behind the shortage of affordable housing, she suspects that many seasonal employees who originally came to the region to work for Telski or other organizations are staying in the region longer, even after changing jobs.
“We’ve had more people staying. A lot of them are working two to three jobs to stay here consistently. We’re seeing less turnover,” Diaz said.
Diaz added that this year, she has seen fewer deed restricted units become available.
“The local employees already in Telluride find out about the open deed-restricted housing units first and apply before someone coming in from outside the region can do the same,” Diaz said. “Landlords have the ability to select their tenants, as long as they qualify, and it is easier for someone who is already here to qualify under the deed restrictions.”
“We think affordable housing is an important priority to keep our community vibrant,” said
Mountain Village Mayor Dan Jansen. “We saw this shortage happening, and are working to find ways to create more options for our residents and employees over the long term, which is central to Mountain Village’s comprehensive plan that was adopted last year."
The Mountain Village comprehensive plan is a 30-year vision of transforming the town into a more sustainable year-round economy by providing more housing, better amenities and more business. It’s available online.
Telluride Mayor Stu Fraser said he hopes the new town council, which includes two new members, Todd Brown and Jenny Patterson, will address the need for more affordable housing.
“The council will focus on housing because we’re out of the recession, our inventory is in good shape and we do have the funds available,” Fraser said. “The lack of affordable housing in the area has been a problem for many people. But the bottom line is that we don’t have the land banking capabilities at this point. We’ve got land, but not necessarily the correct land that can be made into rental units.
“That doesn’t mean we can’t make it work, but we’re going to judge it carefully as to what we need most of. Right now, a large majority of housing we have in town is rental, and we’ve been trying to build up the town’s share of owner-occupied units.”
Fraser ran for council in 2001 on the platform to build more affordable housing in the area, and says one of the most rewarding aspects during his tenure as a Telluride public servant was to create more affordable housing options for residents.
“But we need to do more and my hope is that we’ll get it done.”