By Natalie Johnson
Methow Valley News 

Colorado mountain towns' housing troubles mirror our own

Similar issues drive shortages


Last updated 12/2/2021 at 11:51am

Our picturesque mountain valley’s housing and worker shortages are not unique among picturesque mountain valleys.

Skyrocketing housing costs and low real estate and rental inventories are a problem facing many communities in the country and in the state. However, resort communities tend to look alike.

The Mountain Migration Report, published this year, is based on the experiences of six Colorado mountain resort communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and organized by the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments and the Colorado Association of Ski Towns. The introduction may as well have been written about the Methow Valley.

“Residents of these communities observed that their communities were busier — and consistently so, breaking the typical patterns of high and low visitation,” the report reads. “But was the in-migration real? And what did we know about the people coming to these places who appeared more like residents than visitors? Was it only a COVID-driven wave that would recede? How would it impact known community challenges such as workforce retention, affordable housing, rental stock and that mountain community holy grail that is quality of life?”

Colorado counties included in the Mountain Migration Report include Eagle, Grand, Pitkin, Routt, San Miguel and Summit. While they include towns like Aspen and Telluride, which may be larger or more established than the Methow as resort destinations, the demographics and situations are similar.

“Those are the pressures places where people want to be are facing,” said Ward Hauenstein, mayor pro tem of Aspen.

As in the Methow, newcomers with higher incomes have won bidding wars for increasingly scarce housing units while rents increased between 20% and 40%. Housing on the market is at historic lows and it’s getting harder for people who work in Colorado resort towns to live there.

The report’s introduction goes on to ask if mountain destinations will reach a tipping point when they can no longer fill jobs necessary to sustain their tourist economy — another question familiar to Methow Valley residents.

“Will some communities become fully commoditized and lose their soul?” the report asks.

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