As more mountain town owners turn to short-term tenants to fill their residences, local employees are finding themselves with fewer and fewer affordable options.
Bob and Suzanne Fanch, owners of Devil’s Thumb Ranch outside of Winter Park, noticed that the problem had progressed over the past seven years – and especially since the start of the pandemic – so they decided to take matters into their own hands. hand.
“Winter Park employees make a lot of money, but they don’t make the kind of money they can buy a house in that kind of market, and if you can’t find a rental, where do you live? Said Bob Fanch. “The answer is that employee housing needs to be built on a large scale. There is probably a shortage of 1,000 beds right now.
Last week, the couple bought real estate at Wild Horse Inn, a bed and breakfast about two miles from their ranch and 6,500-acre resort, for $ 2.7 million, Fanch said. They plan to transform the 2.5-acre property with three private cabins and a main lodge into housing for Devil’s Thumb employees.
The Wild Horse Inn opened at 1536 County Road-83 in Fraser 20 years ago, around the same time the Fanches bought Devil’s Thumb. It has hosted weddings, corporate events and chill out stays. The main lodge has seven bedrooms with private baths and the three cabins each have a king bed and a kitchenette.
Owners Christine French and John Cribari did not respond to a request for comment, but Fanch said the couple plan to continue their Wild Horse Catering business elsewhere. The hostel will close at the end of September.
The Fanches plan to offer rooms within the hostel for $ 600 per month to employees. They already have five employee housing buildings with around 60 rooms, two on the ranch and three nearby.
“It’s still not enough,” Fanch said.
Before the pandemic, Devil’s Thumb Ranch had nearly 400 employees, but due to staffing issues it now has only 250. This has forced the resort to put a 70% cap on bookings. Fanch said he was looking to hire 60 or more employees.
“We had a manager at one of our restaurants who rented a house for $ 2,200 a month,” Fanch said. “When the fires happened last summer in Grand Lake, they ate a lot of inventory and his landlord ended up raising the rent to $ 4,200 per month and basically forced him to leave.”
To offset the growing problem of short-term rentals, Winter Park City Council last week approved a program that would provide incentives for owners of short-term rentals or second homes to convert them into workforce housing. ‘artwork. The board approved $ 325,000 for the program, which expires at the end of the year, to help house 40 employees.
Owners of a studio or one-bedroom unit would receive $ 5,000 for a six-month lease or $ 10,000 for a one-year lease, and two- or three-bedroom homes would receive $ 10,000 for six months and $ 20,000 for a one-year lease, according to local authorities. Sky-Hi News newspaper.
“But the real answer has to be a massive enterprise building affordable, employee-friendly housing there and elsewhere,” Fanch said.
In a few years, the Fanches plan to build more employee housing elsewhere on the ranch and restore Wild Horse Inn as a bed and breakfast under a new name. The couple own five acres in total on either side of the inn, so they reportedly consider expanding the company’s footprint.
Other recent changes at Devil’s Thumb include the addition of 24 residential lots ranging from 11 to 35 acres, which hit the market at the end of 2018. They start at $ 750,000 and grow to $ 1.8 million. Bob said 12 have sold.
The Fanches are also working on a massive residential development in Winter Park known as Roam, which is expected to include more than 1,000 housing units and 70,000 square feet of commercial space on 170 acres between the ski area and town along from Highway 40. The first phase of the project began in 2019 and overall construction is expected to last 20 years.