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Study: Many In Summit County Burdened By Cost Of Living

FRISCO, Colo. (AP) — Despite the completion of several workforce developments, including Valley Brook in Breckenridge and the Peak One Neighborhood in Frisco, a recent study concluded — and many local residents agree — there is still a need for additional affordable housing in Summit County.

Nearly 40 percent of households are burdened by the cost of living, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their total income on housing, according to the recently released results of the Summit County Workforce Housing Needs Assessment, which included feedback from more than 800 local residents and input from industry professionals.

More than 60 percent of local households say the availability of affordable living options is a serious or critical problem for the county.

The housing market is recovering and the rental market has made a significant rebound, but employees in Summit County have not, the study showed. More than a third of local households lost an average of $30,000 in annual income to the recession, and many employees hold fewer jobs now than they did before the economic downturn began in 2008.

Existing affordable housing units fared well through tough years, generally maintaining or gaining value while the real estate market at large in Summit County dropped by 20 percent or more in some areas. But the study indicates as interest rates rise, prices on deed-restricted units might not remain affordable for people in the intended income group.

"There are still significant workforce housing problems," said Melanie Rees, the consultant who conducted the study. "A lot of folks thought the recession took care of the housing problems, but looking at the post-recession situation ... it didn't. Many households had drops in income that they still haven't recovered from. So while housing became less expensive, it did not necessarily become more affordable."

In addition, a growing elderly population and a tight rental market will continue to drive the demand for affordable inventory across the county in the coming years, Rees said.

The number of seniors increased faster in Summit over the last decade than in any other county in the state, according to the study. And as the older population retires, there is projected to be a loss in housing inventory from those who remain in their current living situations and those who sell to non-local buyers. The study anticipates a need for as many as 350 additional workforce units to house the employees that replace retiring seniors in the next five years.

"(Historically) a lot of the projected housing need in the future was from new job growth, that was the predominate factor," Rees said. "But now the tide is changing because we're going to have all these retirees. It's a challenge we're seeing in other mountain resort communities too, and nobody knows how we're going to face it yet."

The rental market, on the other hand, has made a strong recovery after softening briefly during the recession, the study indicates. There are fewer units available and monthly rates are on the rise, creating a need for additional affordable rental units.

The town of Breckenridge already has plans underway to meet that need, with an apartment-style development on the Claimjumper property on Airport Road on the northern side of town.

Overall, the study indicates there may be a need for as many as 1,785 new workforce housing units in the next five years.

- By CADDIE NATH, Summit Daily News

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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