Price and prevalence: Defining the housing issues facing Grand County | SkyHiNews.com

Price and prevalence: Defining the housing issues facing Grand County

Ask the workers of Grand County what keeps them awake at night and you are likely to hear something about housing.

Housing in Grand County is, to state the least, a recurring issue, and has been for many years. Several unique factors impact housing markets and trends in Middle Park. A tourism-based economy, mass influx of seasonal workers, proximity to the Front Range and the perception that Grand County is a budget market for second and vacation homeowners all have drastic impacts on housing stock and prices.

But defining the actual issue can be complex.

Is the housing issue about price? Is it about availability? Is the housing shortage due to competition from influxes of workers, or is it driven by reductions in available units? And what is the solution, if there is one?

For Mandi Schott, assistant director of Mountain Family Center, which works with local families encountering housing problems, housing issues really revolve around two core areas.

"The biggest thing is affordable housing," Schott said. "We are all aware of that, especially for seasonal workers. But what goes with that is a lack of housing, period. It is those two things combined: limited supply and prices are sky high."

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Schott's perspective on the problem is undoubtedly impacted by her work with families struggling to make rent or mortgage payments. Mountain Family Center regularly works with families who have fallen on hard times, with a focus on keeping people in homes rather than finding housing for people moving to the area.

In 2016, the Center provided housing assistance funds to 89 different families. Over that same period, the center's food pantry saw 5,175 total visits. Schott said the center has seen an increased trend in pantry visitors who are looking to reduce food costs to free up funds for housing.

Local property owner Andre Janusz understands the rental market first-hand.

Janusz rents out five units in the Granby area and highlighted as a factor to the issue the unique impacts of the recreational offerings of Grand County.

"The supply is pretty tight," Janusz noted. "There is a lot of demand, but not just from people looking for full-time housing. There is also demand from Front Range people looking for second homes or mountain retreats."

Janusz noted that not all such people are looking to purchase homes and the demand they create affects both owned housing and rental stock.

Janusz began renting properties four years ago and had originally planned to purchase more units for rental offerings but has been stymied by increasing purchasing costs.

"We would have liked to have added more to our portfolio, but frankly housing pricing became too expensive to do that; particularly relative to the rent on a single-family house."

On average, Janusz says he receives around four formal renter applications when his properties become open, but noted he screens potential renters before moving to the formal application step. He said he has seen an increasing trend in applications from people moving to Grand County, rather than moving within Grand County.