During the Great Recession of 2008-12 in Telluride, real estate dropped 30 percent to 40 percent and sometimes 50 percent of their values compared to 2005-07. The hardest hit local industries were construction and real estate sales. Foreclosures were running about 100 a month for about four years. Most of those losing their homes and condos were locals in the real estate and construction industries. Several had to move from Telluride to find work or had to wait tables and bartend like when they first moved to Telluride years before. The Town of Telluride and San Miguel County government had several public meetings about possibly laying off staff because their reserves were quickly dissipating. About the only industry that was keeping the economy going was tourism. It was the lodging industry and second homeowners who rented their properties to tourists that helped save our economy. Basically, tourism got us through the worst economy since the mines closed down in the 1970s.
Now, the promoters of Q300 want to attack the very people who saved us in the Great Recession by eliminating over 40 percent of our second homeowners from being able to rent their homes and condos. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. On top of that, the promoters of Q300 claim that short-term rentals (STRs) cause locals to not have housing without any detailed research into historical and present short-term data that supports their premise. Even the Town of Telluride government has not done a study on their hypothesis. Objective analysis shows only 6 percent per year growth in STRs since 2016. Even the Town of Telluride government six-month moratorium was based on incorrect data. We should ask for and expect our local government to do better than promote a moratorium on false information. The concept that home and condo owners would give up using their properties 100 percent of the time to rent them to locals at an affordable rate is fantasy. Sure, out of 300 properties that lose the right to rent short-term a few might rent long-term, which is 30 days or more, but not at rates that locals can afford. Who can blame them for getting as much rent as possible to subsidize their ownership costs? There is not one resort in Colorado that has come close to building enough workforce housing for their community. Many make open space, a luxury ahead of workforce housing, a necessity.
Since the last letter I wrote in the Daily Planet on this topic, dozens of second homeowners have contacted me. Most are furious that they are being demonized by so many locals and some Town of Telluride leaders. Many of them have said the government hasn’t had any problem taking our taxes and fees all these years. They love Telluride just as much as we full-time locals, and chose Telluride to buy a second home or condo over many other resorts. They ask why doesn’t Telluride give them a financial incentive to rent long-term to locals because that would be faster and cheaper than building new housing? Why does government and some locals want to penalize them rather than incentivize them to rent long-term? Some have said that taking away their property right to rent short-term amounts to a property right taking. Some have said they will sue the Town of Telluride if Q300 passes. That may be answered in court, but surely will damage Telluride’s reputation as a friendly tourist town. Some have said Telluride used to have a mining economy and for the last 50 years it has had a tourist economy. If that is damage enough, then locals won’t need housing because they won’t have a job.
One long-time local said to me that Telluride has never had very many jobs that paid enough to be able to buy a home or condo here. He also said he never thought of living here as a right, but a choice. Many long-time locals chose to live Down Valley, or in Rico, Norwood or Ridgway because they couldn’t afford to buy property here. It’s been that way for 50 years and now the new locals want someone else to provide housing for them? Many long-time locals are not very supportive of that attitude. As another second homeowner said to me, “This small group wants to penalize a much larger group for very little results. That’s pretty Machiavellian.”
Lastly, I’ve lived in Telluride for 37 years, and I have never seen this community work together to solve the challenge of meeting the needs of workforce housing to properly sustain our economy. Many attempts have been made. Even in 2016, the Telluride Foundation approached the Town Council to work together to solve workforce housing and Town Council said no; we’re fine doing it ourselves. We’ve had many mayors who have had no interest in joint private-public partnerships in developing workforce housing. More than 90 percent employee housing/workforce housing in the United States is funded and built that way. I have believed for years that our local governments should practice the Four-Way Test in governing: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all? Will it bring good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
We need to all work together to solve the challenge and need of workforce housing.