Cripple Creek hopes a 9-month moratorium on new short-term rentals will ease its workforce housing crisis

Following the lead of other struggling local governments in Colorado ski resorts, the small community of Cripple Creek has declared a nine-month moratorium on the opening or operation of new short-term rental properties.

The shutdown is part of an effort in many mountain communities to ease a growing housing shortage as more landlords put their properties on sites such as VRBO and Airbnb to meet the needs of tourists. In Cripple Creek, many visitors come to town for the downtown casinos.

The worry, for many community leaders, is that the more short-term rentals there are, the less housing there is for the region’s workforce.

“These present a conflict for the city because we have a labor housing crisis,” Cripple Creek planner Ryan Helle said at a city council meeting in early December. “Short-term rentals are private residences that take away housing opportunities for the workforce.”

The growing popularity of short-term rental properties has led to a flurry of regulatory responses over the past year in Colorado’s high country. Summit County just released a similar 90-day moratorium on such rental licenses last week.

“If you look at both the cities and the unincorporated county of Summit, literally one in three homes is now on a short-term rental license and it’s really created an imbalance in our community,” the town said. Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue.

Housing shortages for restaurant workers and the local ski economy have even led employers buy hotels in neighboring counties to house their workers. Commissioner Pogue said the 90-day pause in allowing new short-term rental licenses has given Summit County time to separate unincorporated county lands into two areas; a “resort zone” allowing owners to apply for short-term rental licenses as before and “non-resort zones” where the new short-term rental licenses are now much more restricted.

The moves come as mountain towns and villages struggle to develop. Some have historically viewed such rapid growth as a threat to the number of people living there. Some have even decided to completely stop this growth. Earlier this month, Aspen suspended all new residential developments until the end of next September. It also suspended short-term rental permits for existing homes until September 2022.

CP economics reporter Sarah Mulholland compiled a list of the results of about a dozen local ballot measures last November aimed at reducing short-term rentals and addressing other housing issues. As leaders put in place new kinds of restrictions on short-term rentals in the state’s mountain towns, proponents of short-term rentals claim visitors to their properties are the very people who support local economies.

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