With 45% of properties used as second homes, Frisco officials are considering plans to improve housing for the workforce

One of the buildings in the new Mary Ruth Place workforce housing complex.
Brodie Boilard/Frisco

According to Frisco’s housing report released last Tuesday, 45% of its homes are “vacant second homes.” Simultaneously, business owners report employees sleeping in cars or in the woods. The rooms are empty, but the employees cannot find accommodation.

Almost all of the council’s talks last week centered on short-term rentals, but they only account for 20% of Frisco’s residential housing, according to the city’s report. Nearly half of the city’s residential units are second homes.

Housing program manager Danelle Cook said her team determined the number of “vacant second homes” by subtracting occupied homes – which includes the amount of short-term rentals allowed, the amount of homes with a street address local in the Summit County Assessor’s database and the number of long-term rentals as determined by data from the 2020 American Community Survey – from the total number of residential housing units in the city ​​limits.

The term “vacant” simply means that the homes are not primary property and are not rented, city officials explained. Frisco Mayor Hunter Mortensen said “unused” might be a better word, although he said he regularly saw blackened windows and unplowed driveways when walking his dog. Empty homes degrade the sense of community, councilors said, but there’s not much they can do about it.

“We have way too many vacant homes that, God knows from day one, I’ve tried to charge them up, but I can’t,” Frisco Mayor Hunter Mortensen said. “So, unfortunately, short-term rentals become the boogeyman.”

Mortensen said he would like to see second home owners address the impact they are having on the housing situation. Rising housing costs are coming from a mix of sources — not just short-term rentals — Cook said on Tuesday. Like short-term rentals, which are subject to accommodation and excise taxes, he had ideas for taxes on home purchases to give money back to the city to deal with the crisis. housing. However, they were never just ideas, since the city’s hands are tied, he said.

The biggest hurdle for the county in addressing the impact of second homes is amending the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, Mortensen said. The amendment limits the city’s ability to tax private property. Since its enactment in 1992, it has severely limited a municipality’s ability to tax private property. All the city can do is receive a 1% transfer tax on real estate sales, since the tax was instituted before TABOR was passed.

Mortensen said past conversations with state officials showed little hope of turning things around. Most attempts to modify the amendment struggle to gain traction.

Councilor Elizabeth Skrzypczak-Adrian, a cafe owner, said the staffing issue needed to be resolved. Her employees sleep in cars and in the woods, she said.

“These people have nowhere to live. I don’t know how to improve their life so that they are safe, showered and rested to come and get beaten every day,” she said.

His comment came following a conversation about managing the impact of short-term rentals.

City staff provided councilors with a list of possible ways to deal with the impact of short-term rentals. Inclusive zoning, overlapping area districts, a short-term rental license cap, defining license types, and a moratorium rounded out the possibilities.

Councilors issued mixed opinions on the recommendations and weighed possible actions against the decisions of the county and surrounding towns. Some floated the idea of ​​capping short-term rentals, others said they wanted to learn more about inclusive zoning because it could also solve the labor housing problem. The council scratched overlapping zoning districts from its possibilities, but all others remained on the table.

“We want to be sensitive so we don’t impact the teacher who rents a room on the weekend,” said Pro-Tem Mayor Rick Ihnken. This would mean avoiding restrictions on owner-occupied short-term rentals.

Councilor Andrew Aerenson has expressed support for a cap, but it should be done tactfully and before the situation spirals out of control.

“I think Breckenridge, as an example, obviously waited too long. And now, all of a sudden, they have too much, and they have to go back.

He said if the city instituted a cap on its number of short-term rentals, it should allow some room for growth. For example, he said, since the city’s short-term residential rental rate is 20%, the city could consider a cap of 22%, except for owner-occupied rentals. .

In general, the council did not object to the idea of ​​short-term rentals. Councilor Andy Held said it was the owner’s right to rent out their property, but “They are not taxed as a commercial enterprise. And in all cases – even owner-occupied units – it’s a revenue generator, and they should be taxed as such.

Further discussions on the short-term rental strategy are scheduled for the next City Council business meeting on June 28.

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