Affordable housing deficit hits Grand
This story is the first in a three-part series examining the affordable housing crunch in Grand County. Look for the next two stories on Friday, Nov. 6 & 13.
Shanna Ganne is the kind of person you want in your community.
She’s an active parent, serving on the parents’ advisory committee for East Grand School District.
She’s also an industrious and conscientious citizen; she works as the Grand County Program Coordinator for Northwest Rocky Mountain CASA, a nonprofit that advocates for at-risk and neglected children.
And she’s ambitious. In addition to working and raising an 8-year-old son by herself, Ganne attends online classes at Regis University where she hopes to earn her degree in nonprofit management.
In other words, Ganne is an asset.
Originally from Austin, Texas, Ganne decided to call the Fraser Valley home 11 years ago.
“I like the community and how supportive it can be because it’s really great, especially with kids,” Ganne said. “It’s a great place to raise your kid.”
But Ganne isn’t sure how much longer she’ll be able to stay in Fraser.
Ganne’s rent is increasing, and she isn’t sure if she’ll be able to afford it.
In a looser rental market, the answer would be to find something more affordable, perhaps a littler farther from town, but Ganne hasn’t been able to find anything affordable. In fact, she already lives in Fraser’s only attainable housing property.
“It makes me think that I’m not going to be able to stay,” Ganne said.
Attainable housing, affordable housing, workforce housing – these words are used interchangeably to describe the same concept.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development describes it as housing with a monthly payment no more than 30 percent of the household’s gross income.
In more humanized terms, it’s where you’ll find the barista who served your coffee this morning, the operator that plowed your road last weekend and the ski patroller who may save your life in the months to come. It’s the kind of place that houses a community’s assets.
On Oct. 6, the Winter Park Town Council adopted its 2015 Housing Needs Assessment, which observed that, among other things, an “extreme shortage” in workforce housing is likely this winter in Winter Park.
The assessment, from housing consultants Wendy Sullivan and Melanie Rees, pointed to job growth that has outpaced development, second home rentals and an increase in year-round leases as a few of the reasons for the squeeze.
Those same factors are tightening rental markets in resort towns across Colorado, said Christine Bauman with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Denver office.
“Housing demand is often greater in the mountain resort communities,” Bauman wrote in an email. “In addition to the year-round population, you have seasonal workers who create temporary housing demand. Also, because of their attractive location, these are often communities where people like to own second homes.”
Winter Park curtails non-employee housing
With a shortage in workforce housing, employers are also feeling the squeeze.
Winter Park Resort has offered some of its employee housing to non-employees for years.
This season will mark the first time that the resort has had to reallocate housing to employees, said Steve Hurlbert, Winter Park Resort’s communications director.
“There’s just a premium on housing in the entire county, and so we’re certainly not immune to that, and we have had to take the units that we own and the properties that we manage, we have had to make those available exclusively to Winter Park employees.”
Winter Park Resort measures its housing units in beds.
This year, the resort reclassified around 50 beds to employee-only, bringing the number of beds available to employees to more than 200, Hurlbert said.
The resort’s elimination of non-employee housing has had far-reaching effects in Grand County as the resort owns properties as far afield as Granby.
Jessica Jimenez lived with her husband and two sons in a resort-owned home in Grand Meadows in Granby for two and half years, she said.
On Sept. 11, Jimenez found out that she would have to vacate her home as the resort was repurposing it for employee-only housing.
“It was really hard for my sons because we were in one of the houses that’s right by the park,” Jimenez said. “My 3-year-old is still having a really hard time with it.”
Winter Park Resort offered full-time employment to any tenant who wanted to stay in their home, though Jimenez is already employed with Middle Park Medical Center.
The five other tenants on her row received the same notification.
Though the resort has been happy to offer housing to non-employees in the past, the current housing market is unprecedented, Hurlbert said.
“It hasn’t been an issue before, and I think a lot of that stems from the economic downturn we had, and if anything I guess it’s a positive sign that the real estate market is coming back in the county and I think that portends the economic viability of Grand County,” Hurlbert said.
Granby rental market tight
While it might seem that Jimenez’s eviction was a one-off, she said she quickly found that the rental market was tight in Granby, too.
Jimenez was offered a place at another house in Grand Meadows, but it didn’t work out.
“It was more than I could afford,” Jimenez said. “I turned it down. I couldn’t find anywhere else so I had to move in with my mom.”
Since moving in with her mother, Jimenez said its been tough to find a place that fits her family’s budget.
“It’s either really expensive or really small,” Jimenez said. “We do have one medium sized dog and nobody is taking dogs.”
There are some options in Kremmling, Jimenez said, but the commute to her job at MPMC-Granby is too far, and she doesn’t want her sons to change schools.
Grand County is a tightly knit socioeconomic community with workers frequently moving and commuting between communities.
Jimenez herself was born in Kremmling and raised in Granby.
With attainable housing growing scarcer by the day in the Fraser Valley, it’s become an issue for Grand County at large.
“Some people are saying that it used to be like this, but my parents have been here a long time, too,” Jimenez said. “They’ve been here before I was born. It’s never been like this.”
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Ghosts, and goblins, and ghouls, oh my!