Crested Butte. Photo Credit: SeanXu (iStock).

Mount Crested Butte, Colorado (pictured) is one mountain town where housing problems are causing issues as costs rise. Other towns, like Breckenridge and Telluride, are having similar issues. Photo Credit: SeanXu (iStock).

Finding affordable housing in most Colorado ski towns is no easy task, especially for local workers. With investors and second-home owners snatching up coveted mountainside properties, home prices continue to slip out of reach for those with a modest income – many of whom provide key services that allow the resorts behind the booming local economies to exist. Making a down payment on a million-plus dollar home simply isn't feasible for most employees earning an hourly wage, as landlords also turn to more profitable short-term renting over long-term leases, thus limiting local housing options even more.

The housing crunch has meant long commutes or non-conventional housing options for many ski town workers, with some turning to vanlife, camping, or extremely cramped and crowded spaces out of necessity.

A recent report from NBC News provided interesting insight into the situation, including the statistic that only 11 percent of the Breckenridge housing stock is resident-occupied, short of a goal of 35 percent. This situation is similar to what is found in other spots, too, with the many local housing options occupied by temporary vacationers or sitting empty while owners live the majority of their lives at a different primary residence.

As this lack of affordable housing drives locals away, it creates a number of issues. Lack of staffing is often the first concern that is raised, but perhaps a more important long-term impact may be how the flight of the locals can cause the sense of community to evaporate, turning what was once a colorful ski town into something closer to a corporate machine.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a simple solution. Businesses have tried to purchase homes so that they're able to offer affordable housing to employees. Towns have capped short-term rental properties while designating some homes as 'locals-only.' Some organizations are even shelling out big bucks so that locals can make a downpayment on a purchase. Unfortunately, each win seems to be a drop in the bucket as home prices and average rent continues to rise, outpacing wage increases.

There's not doubt about it – the affordable housing situation is grim in many Colorado resort towns, leaving many wondering how these towns can continue to thrive if no one is around to fill wage-based jobs. 

Could the 'ski town local' become a lifestyle of the past? Time will tell.

Do you think there's a solution to this issue? Let us know in the comments.

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