The Estes Park EDC, along with its partners and stakeholders, has been working with the Town of Estes Park and the Estes Valley community on Workforce Housing challenges for the last eighteen months. A lot has happened in that time and we’d like to answer some of the questions that we’ve been asked by members of our community. But first, we’d like to share some quotes from several of our local employers.
“It is important to us when it comes to the retention and recruitment of teachers. Most times, we have people apply for a job but then we offer them the job and they come and try to find housing and then have to turn us down because of housing. That is very common, probably about eighty percent of the time, that happens.” Sheldon Rosenkrance – Estes Park School District Superintendent.
“Not only do employees struggle but the Police Department has struggled for a long time. We struggle with competing with agencies along the Front Range, training, hiring and being aggressive in our recruitment strategies and then retaining those folks. The linch pin that always catches us is affordable housing.” Wes Kufeld – Estes Park Police Department Police Chief
“About six years ago, we were getting forty, fifty or sixty people applying for one opening at the library and in the last three to four years we’ve been getting three to five applicants per position.” Claudine Perrault – Estes Valley Library Director
“This impacts our organization and comes back to the recruitment and retention of our volunteers and our ability to perform those services with those volunteers. Certainly volunteers that don’t live in district aren’t able to respond in a timely fashion and we rely on them also to come up and do shifts. A big thing is also the age range we’re targeting for volunteers. As you might imagine, for structural and wildland firefighting, we’re trying to target people in their twenties and thirties and a lot of people in that age bracket are having a hard time finding housing in Estes Park. So we get them, we train them and then they leave for a place that’s a lower cost of living.” David Wolf – Estes Valley Fire Protection District Fire Chief
Q: What is “Workforce Housing?”
A: Workforce housing is designed for active growing families with school-aged children and working adults that live full time in Estes Park. Our Estes Valley Development Code defines workforce housing as “A housing unit in which at least one household member is employed within the Estes Park School District R-3 Boundaries.” The term workforce housing typically sparks images of firefighters, teachers, law enforcement professionals, medical personnel, service industry workers and others who are overqualified for affordable housing yet can’t afford the average market-rate home. Regulations will require at least one household member be employed full-time within school district boundaries.
Q: Why does Estes Park need workforce housing?
A: Completed in January of 2016, the Estes Park Housing Needs Assessment Report, demonstrated a large potential market, especially for rental units. The report concluded that between 1,480 and 1,690 housing units are needed to address current housing shortages including workforce housing needs. Based on the empirical data and facts of that study, we know that:
- Employers identified a lack of housing as the most difficult issue for recruiting and retaining employees.
- 1,480 to 1,690 housing units are needed to address housing shortages and keep up with future demand. This averages to about 300 to 340 units per year.
- 90 percent felt that the inability of employees working in the Estes area to find housing they can afford to be a serious or critical problem.
- Approximately 1,150 workforce households live in housing that is not affordable based on their incomes.
- Just over 530 workforce households live in overcrowded homes.
- About 630 employees who are forced to commute would move into the Estes Park area to be closer to work if they could find suitable housing.
- In November 2015, there were nearly 700 unfilled jobs in the Estes Park area, representing about 13 percent of all jobs, and about 1,000 unfilled jobs in the summer of 2015.
- Approximately 930 workforce households (21%) reside in housing that is in fair or poor condition. This is up from 4% in 2007.
- About 700 renters were forced to move or were evicted in the past 5 years due to changing circumstances with their rented home. Rentals being converted to short term rentals and land owners moving into their previously rented homes are the most commonly cited reasons.
Q: Isn’t our greatest need for homeownership households with incomes above 60% AMI, not rentals?
A: Studies show the need for both, but the rental need is larger. As a community, the greatest need would serve households between 80% and 150% AMI (Area Median Income) based on family size and income, and more apartment rental units are needed than single family homes. The Estes Park Housing Authority (EPHA) continues to serve mostly households with lower incomes (30%-60%) and can access state and federal programs that serve those needs. The Housing Authority also recognizes the need for workforce housing with AMI limits greater than 60%. With this in mind they are moving in a direction to support this area of need as well. For example, EPHA purchased a property in February 2016 off Highway 7, with the intent of creating 26 units to support the workforce housing need.
Q: What is “Attainable Housing?”
A: Our Estes Valley Development Code defines attainable housing units as “Housing units that are attainable to households earning less than one hundred and fifty percent (150%) of the Larimer County Area Median Income or below, adjusted for household size.” Attainable to a particular household is defined as a monthly housing payment that is equal to or no more than 30% of a household’s gross income. Estes Park currently has two developments that incorporate affordable housing at income levels below 60% of AMI along with attainable housing at higher income levels. Attainable housing in the Estes Valley does not require full time employment for leasing or purchase. The Neighborhood with single family homes and Vista Ridge, a multi-family town-home style development. Each location has a portion that is affordable and the other is market rate. The attainable units are deed restricted to maintain continued attainability. Vista Ridge was developed by EPHA.
Q: How do you qualify for workforce housing?
A: In order to be eligible to sign a long term, twelve month lease, the applicant must be able to verify employment within the Estes Valley. The Estes Valley Development Code states “Housing units shall be eligible for the Maximum Permitted Density Bonus (Sec. 11.4.D) if at least one (1) resident in each housing unit annually submits an affidavit, including a copy of a W-2 form, to the Town certifying that the resident is employed within the Estes Park School District R-3 Boundary Map.”
Q: What if someone becomes unemployed or retires, will they be able to renew their lease?
A: Most long-term lease contracts are up for renewal every 12 months. Upon renewal, the applicant must be able to verify employment within the Estes Valley. The leases for such units will specify policies governing when a retiree or household without a worker is required to vacate their lease.
If you would like more information on the need for workforce housing in the Estes Valley, please visit http://www.estesparkedc.com/estes-park-workforce-housing/