By James Steindler
There are two sides to every coin and, following the Carbondale trustees’ Dec. 21 work session addressing Community First Carbondale’s (CFC) proposal to regulate short-term-rentals (STR), a flip-side presented itself.
In response to the work session, a contingent of people in favor of short-term rentals formed their own group in the wake of the debate. That group, Carbondale Forward, takes issue with various components of the CFC proposal, but, and perhaps surprisingly, there are some overlapping sentiments.
Still, Carbondale Forward members assert that STRs are being scapegoated among a myriad of other issues contributing to the affordable housing crisis.
“Displaced employees [and] residents are not the cause of STRs,” Carbondale Forward member Richard Walker wrote in a statement to the trustees. “It is caused by exorbitant rental rates, prohibitively high real estate prices and not enough affordable housing. This has been the case for years. And we have seen this problem start in Aspen and move its way downvalley.”
Carbondale Forward organizer Brittany Hailey runs her own STR management business in the Valley. She oversees roughly 40 properties, primarily in the mid-valley area. Hailey also owns and operates two STRs in historic downtown Carbondale. She resides with her family in a separate home, also in Carbondale.
Hailey acknowledged her business relationship with local realtors who have clients interested in purchasing second homes. “They reach out to me if they have clients who are looking for second homes and are interested in renting them out as well,” she told The Sopris Sun.
During her designated two minutes at the Dec. 21 public meeting, Hailey stated that 95% of her clients are second-home-owners. She claimed, “If we took away the ability for them to short-term rent there would not be a single long-term rental (LTR) added … the homes would just simply sit empty.”
Members of Carbondale Forward argue that many of the houses owned by second homeowners, for example in River Valley Ranch, would not be financially attainable by the general workforce if they were available as LTRs. The group also brings up the point that second home owners stay at these homes periodically and that it would be impractical for a tenant to occupy year-round.
According to Hailey, “The town of Carbondale has 2,445 household units in which 40 of those units are being used as STRs. That equates to 1.64% of the total workforce housing.” She drew a comparison with Aspen where, she stated, STRs account for 12.9% of the potential workforce housing. Aspen recently passed a six-month moratorium on STR permits.
Hailey brought up that landlords are ridiculed for advertising their properties at high costs. However, she stated, new home owners are paying larger mortgages due to the inflated market and have no choice but to rent their units at the prices they’re asking. Some people opt to rent their property as STRs, which generally rakes in more profit than a LTR, so they can manage to pay a pricey mortgage.
“The average single family home price is $1.7 million in Carbondale, and I just want to know how somebody is going to rent something for $1,500 or $2,500 a month and make that a reality,” Hailey rhetorically asked.
Nina Pedersen, a member of Carbondale Forward, has owned the lots from Fat Belly Burger to Second Street since the ‘90s. In recent years, she converted two of her apartment properties into STRs. Pedersen explained to The Sopris Sun that the extra income in turn gives her the opportunity to rent her LTR units at a more affordable rate.
“I have heard that studios in the new rental building next to City Market are leasing at $2000 a month,” Pedersen stated. “That would make my one bedroom STR be around $3200 a month long-term … Long-term tenants would scoff, as would I in their shoes!”
While there are likely plenty of rooms available at the Days Inn or Comfort Inn, Hailey opined that tourists don’t always find these options appealing. With under 10 commercial lodging options available in downtown Carbondale, she claimed that STRs fill that gap with adequate accommodations for visitors.
From a tourism standpoint, Carbondale Forward members believe that STRs help to attract visitors and are imperative to maintaining a robust tourist economy. Hailey added that the organization reached out to local businesses and said, “They have a hard time keeping employees due to housing, but cutting down the number of tourists would absolutely crush their business.”
Carbondale Forward would like to see properties that are already operating as STRs be grandfathered in, including second homes, out of consideration for investments already made. “I don’t want to see our community overrun by STRs. However, I want there to be a fair playing field for people who have already made financial commitments in the community,” she stated.
As mentioned, there is some agreement between Carbondale Forward and CFC. For instance, the pro-STR group is not entirely opposed to a permitting system or even taxation. “I am totally for any taxation,” said Hailey. “I think we should permit and tax STRs and we should make sure that that additional money is utilized to create a platform for affordable housing for our community.”
The group also agrees that limiting real estate speculation is important and does not wish to see outside investment companies buying up multiple properties. Therefore, Carbondale Forward acknowledges that eventually the need to cap the number of STRs in town will come.
The trustees will hold a meeting to gather public input regarding STRs on Jan. 18. Anyone interested in joining can do so in-person or virtually. Visit www.carbondalegov.org for more information.