Colorado High-Country Commissioners Recognize the Connection Between Short-Term Rentals and the Workforce Housing Crisis

If you live in Grand County full time, have a second home, visit when possible, or are considering investing in a property, it's more than likely you've heard conversations around the shortage of housing for the local workforce. Grand County is not an outlier in mountain communities--workforce housing has become scarce throughout Colorado's high country. While the factors that contribute to the erosion of worker housing in the Rocky Mountains are numerous, many point to the exponential increase in short-term rentals (STRs) such as those listed on Airbnb as potential catalysts. 

While our communities are beyond grateful for the revenue produced by tourism, the ability to live in Grand County while working a job that provides services for those utilizing short-term and other vacation rentals has become significantly less attainable in the past few years. It's an issue that mountain counties across Colorado are working to address, whether it be in providing funds to construct attainable housing or offering incentives to homeowners to offer long-term rentals similar to the Town of Winter Park's Short-Term Fix and Summit County's Lease to Locals initiatives. 


Airbnb recently released a report that paints Colorado short-term rentals as solely beneficial to the economy with no correlation between Airbnb STRs and issues with workforce housing. However, a group of 15 commissioners from seven mountain counties across Colorado (all members of the Colorado Association of Ski Towns) have taken clear and vocal issue with Airbnb's report. A response to the report from commissioners in Eagle, Grand, Gunnison, Pitkin, Routt, San Miguel and Summit counties reads: “Airbnb narrowly focused on positive impacts, and facts appear selected to craft a story that is not entirely true, especially when it comes to negative impacts created by the STR industry,” Statistics to do not always paint a full story, and those in the Airbnb report fail to address several negative impacts of the influx of STRs in our valley, a strategy that allows the data to tell a story that suits their desire for profitability without affecting others. In other words, these elected officials are indicating that the data in the report is, in Summit County Commissioner Sandra Pogue's words, cherry-picked as a "fairly standard piece of industry marketing."

Airbnb, which counts tens of thousands of users in Colorado alone, submitted $25 million in tourist lodging taxes to the state of Colorado in 2021. Soliciting a report that shifts all blame elsewhere reads like a business trying to retain revenue rather than a fact-based, holistic assessment of the current state of housing in Colorado. 

Grand County's Commissioners are not turning a blind eye to the issue of workforce housing. While definitively appreciative of the revenue generated by short-term rentals throughout the county, they are ready to speak frankly around the need to shift the trajectory of eliminating workforce housing completely as the real estate market prices people out. 


Revenue alone cannot fully depict benefits and pitfalls--awareness of our county's limited workforce and attainable housing needs as a whole can help create a more holistic and beneficial understanding of the impacts of various factors on today's long-term rental market. While short-term rentals are not the sole culprit, the commissioners put it best in their letter when they said, "It is misleading to claim there is no relationship." Recognizing a correlation and creating a plan to address the need for workforce housing (including all associated variables) is key when developing a plan to sustain viability for workers in need of local housing. We believe a balance can be struck between investment properties and providing homes for those serving our community! 

Posted by Angela McDonough (Sandstrom) on


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