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October 17, 2008

New West Story on Gentrification of Resort Towns

From the New West Blog:

A tough economic climate means a steady stream of recent college graduates willing to endure low wages for a free ski pass, but these economic cogs in the wheels of ski resorts’ winter economies still need a warm bed and running water. These days, housing seasonal workers in towns with dwindling pools of rental units is reaching crisis stage.

Last week, the Salt Lake Tribune ran a story about the dearth of seasonal rental housing in Park City. The article neatly condenses into a simple sentence what’s been going on, for those who haven’t watched it occur in front of them.

“Much of the seasonal housing stock has been converted to more lucrative nightly rentals for tourists or sold to year-round residents as real-estate prices soar.”

As gentrification extends to every back-alley cabin and shag-carpeted rental condo, it’s the workers on the lowest rung of the employment ladder that are most affected. When real estate prices skyrocketed in recent years, landlords and deep-pocketed investors cashed in, remodeling and selling older, low-end condominiums, the lifeblood of the rental market in most mountain towns. New owners who financed purchases with no money down had to increase rents to cover their mortgages, while skid housing was demolished to make way for new construction...

At Big Sky Mountain Resort, some seasonal workers are housed at the Whitewater Inn nine miles down the resort’s access road, getting a free shuttle to their jobs and meal discounts. Copper Mountain Resort in Colorado bought a former Club Med to house winter employees slopeside. In Telluride, many resort employees live in rent-controlled apartments owned by the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has an inventory of apartments and condos, but is able to house only about 120 of its 900 winter seasonal workers. The rest of its employees are left to fend for themselves on the free market while earning around $8.50 per hour.

Affordable housing is huge. Driving 100 miles on snowy roads each day to work at your $10 an hour job and earn a free season pass is what ski bumming is about these days.

Not much we can do about it, but it certainly is the trend in the industry. Low wages, no housing.

Posted by Justin at October 17, 2008 12:11 AM