Colorado’s housing crisis hasn’t spared the high country. As more and more people are priced out of the market, the mountain town of Frisco is considering officially declaring it an emergency.
Frisco Mayor Hunter Mortensen said emergency declarations are normally reserved for acts of God, such as disease or flood. He thinks the housing shortage is just as harmful as a natural disaster.
“I think for where we are currently in the town of Frisco, it's a true threat to our community and the vibrancy that we have,” he said. “Also, it's starting to affect our economy because without workforce housing, our businesses are suffering from it.”
The emergency declaration would be mostly symbolic, but it would have the same goal declarations for natural disasters do — raising awareness.
“When there is an emergency declared, it's rallying all community members to come out and help protect and save the town. And I feel like that's where we are,” Mortensen said.
A 2020 study by Summit Combined Housing Authority found that workers seek housing outside of Summit County because there aren’t enough units available. According to that research, there was a housing inventory gap of about 1,200 units last year. That figure could more than double by 2023.
If working adults are lucky enough to find housing in the area, high prices often prevent them from abiding by the general rule of thumb that one third of their income should go to rent at maximum.
“Working adults with children who are cost-burdened are more likely to be renters, and are spending, on average, over half of their income on housing,” the report said. It also adds that adults without children spend an average of half their income on rent.
Mortensen said long-time residents are struggling to find affordable housing that can accommodate them and their growing families.
Jessie Unruh-Brossman has lived in Summit County for 14 years. Once living on a ski bum budget, she and her husband are now ready to buy a home for themselves and their daughter, but they’re being continually priced out by more competitive buyers.
“I don't know if I want to sacrifice taking a family vacation because we can't afford it because we pay a massive mortgage,” Unruh-Brossman said. “I mean, we're the average American living in one of the most expensive ski towns in the country. And we can't, we literally can't stay here anymore.”
The clock is ticking for them. They hope to have another child, but Unruh-Brossman said they’re on the verge of leaving her longtime home.
“We are feeling very constrained in this tiny little apartment,'' she said. “So it's not long before we're going to start looking elsewhere in Colorado and there's a lot of affordable places.”
Frisco City Council will discuss the possibility of declaring the housing shortage an emergency during its next meeting, which Mortensen says is in two weeks.