Tourists Are Causing A Severe Housing Crisis In One Us State?

Colorado's tiny mountain towns, particularly Telluride, which attract swaths are tourists each year, have given way to a severe housing crisis due to tourism inflating the cost of properties.

By Jennifer Hollohan | Published

The mountains of Colorado provide an idyllic vacation setting, which is good news for the towns that rely on tourism. Tourists flock to the small towns dotting the mountainside for stunning views, exciting activities, and unique local shops. Unfortunately, that influx of tourists has an undesired consequence – putting pressure on an already significant housing crisis.

Many of Colorado’s small mountain towns that receive seasonal visitors also struggle to provide affordable housing for locals. Real estate prices are well out of the reach of most local workers. And rentals are few and far between. 

Along the I-70 corridor, the housing crisis is so bad local workers often have to rent in neighboring towns. So, the locals commute, fighting heavy summer traffic or severe winter storms. But at least for those locals, they have some housing options, even if they are less than ideal.

But Telluride locals have a different battle. The stunning mountain town is isolated. So, there are no neighboring communities where local workers can move.

And with the astronomically high real estate prices, most cannot afford to buy in the town they call home. According to the Daily Dot, the average home costs $1.5 million. Rentals are difficult to find, and the prices are equally pricey.

Even lofts in Telluride can run $1,500 per month. The town does have affordable housing options to relieve the housing crisis pressure, but there are not enough of them. Applicants often have to wait years before securing one of the affordable units. 

The Daily Dot spoke with a property manager in Telluride, Bonnie Webber, about the housing crisis. She said, “I’ve been out of housing since June. Luckily, my boss is letting me stay at their place when they’re out of town and when they are [here], I go out of town to visit friends and family. It’s getting really old.” 

housing crisis small town
Telluride, Colorado

And she is not the only one facing a lack of housing. Many Telluride locals have to bunk with friends or families just to have a place to stay. This fact has driven many locals to a near-breaking point of frustration.

What resulted was a pair of local ballot initiatives that got voted on in 2021. The purpose of both measures was to try and tackle the acute housing crisis the small mountain community is facing. But they came at the problem in polar opposite ways.

Citizens’ initiative ballot measure 300 proposed a reduction in the number of short-term rentals (STR) allowed by the city. At the time, Telluride issued 700 STR licenses. The ballot sought to restrict that number to 575.

The countermeasure was citizen’s initiative ballot measure 2D. It proposed pausing the issuance of STR licenses for two years and raising the fee by 100%. The extra money would then get directed to affordable housing measures.

After the election, many locals were heartily disappointed in the news that 2D won. But the community does appear united in finding a solution to the housing crisis. They just have different views of how to reach that goal.

For now, Telluride still faces a significant shortage of affordable housing. There are no resolutions in the year since 2D’s passage. But, the city broke ground for a new affordable housing development, which is great news for the community.