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  • Dylan Anderson

Could paying STR owners to convert their units be a Band-Aid on Steamboat's housing crisis?

The idea has been tried in Winter Park and Summit County with some success, but it can be expensive.

Short term rentals
Steamboat Springs City Council decided to continue exploring a short-term to long term conversion program last week. (City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy)

While the Brown Ranch hopes to solve Steamboat Springs’ housing woes in the long term, it will take some time for it to deliver units — late 2026 is the earliest units will be available.


The Yampa Valley Housing Authority does have more units coming — 75 units Anglers 400 by the end of this year and about 230 at Mid Valley, which will start some site work this year — City Council discussed a policy last week that could bring more units almost overnight.


The idea is to pay current short-term rental operators an incentive, to rent their units long-term.

Winter Park and Summit County have been doing it for several years with some success, though one of the clear drawbacks is it can be costly. Both pay more than $5,000 per bedroom for a five- to six-month lease, or more than $10,000 per bedroom for a 12-month lease.


In one year, Winter Park got 47 bedrooms for about $385,000 in payments. Summit County (the program only applied in Breckenridge and unincorporated parts of the county) got 75 bedrooms for about $635,000.


At its work session last week, Council agreed to further explore such an incentive program and signaled that if it were pursued, the funding would be the STR tax, which has raised $4.4 million in the first three months. Such a program would likely be temporary and only apply in yellow and red areas of Steamboat STR overlay zones.


“It is a very quick, very direct solution,” said Molly Fitzpatrick, a consultant with Denver-based Root Policy Research. “There’s not another good option, to be perfectly honest, to repurpose your existing housing stock almost overnight. … It just does cost money and for most communities, that’s kind of a hard constraint.”


Specifics of what a city program along these lines could look like were not delved into last week, other than that it would likely be a pilot program. Council members also indicated the program, if pursued, would likely be an attempt to bridge the housing shortage gap until units start to come on at the Brown Ranch.


The property owner would get to keep all the rent collected from the conversion, in addition to the incentive. In Summit County, rents for units in these programs need to be $1,000 to $1,500 a month. Winter Park doesn’t have an official cap.


While it is expensive, Fitzpatrick noted that it is still cheaper than trying to build units, with even Low Income Housing Tax Credit projects costing about $375,000 per door to build in Colorado. It also delivers units much faster.

“The problem that we have is that we can’t build something fast enough,” said Council member Michael Buccino. “We can actually build something now.”


Council President Robin Crossan suggested that a type of program like this could be limited to the red and yellow zones, which prohibit and limit the number of STRs in them. Still, there are STRs in red, prohibited zones that are allowed to continue operating with legal-nonconforming status.


Some council members speculated whether a side benefit of such a program would be getting these units in red zones to convert back to long-term for good, as they wouldn’t be able to switch back to an STR after they stopped operating as one. Planning Director Rebecca Bessey speculated that people in these zones would likely need a large incentive to convert, as there is some degree of value in being an STR.


“You’re going to have to figure out what that trade-off is,” Bessey said.

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