Eagle County will pay homeowners if they rent to local workers instead of turning their properties into vacation rentals

Nathaniel Minor/CPR News
Avon is in the middle of the Vail Valley along Interstate 70 in central Colorado.

Eagle County wants its property owners to choose to rent to the local workforce instead of becoming vacation rentals.

The county’s housing authority hopes to incentivize that through its relaunched Lease to Locals program, which is being marketed and administered by Placemate, a California-based company. 

Through the new program, Eagle County property owners are incentivized to rent their houses to local workers instead of renting them out as short-term vacation homes. If an Eagle County homeowner chooses to rent to a local worker, they will get a stipend ranging from $2,000 to $12,000, depending on how long the lease is. 

Eagle County Housing Director Kim Bell Williams said the incentive program is needed due to a major housing crisis in mountain towns. 

“We have a need projected to be 6,000 units, and that's 50 percent rental units and 50 percent for sale units,” Williams said. 

Williams said Eagle County partnered with Placemate to help account for shortcomings in the previous iteration of its Lease to Locals program. She said Placemate, which operates in several popular mountain tourist areas, like Colorado’s Summit County and Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada, can reach a greater number of property owners. 

“We're just not as connected to the second homeowner market and so we just weren't reaching the right population and we just didn't have the market expertise to really pull those people back in,” Williams said. “But knowing that this is what Placemate does, I think they'll have a much easier time than we did.”

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In addition to the monetary incentive, Eagle County and Placemate hope they can lure homeowners to rent to residents by appealing to their desire for long-term security.

“You have someone you're responsible for the trash, who knows where to park,” Williams said. “And if that incentive ends up being not enough, then there's certainly room in that program for us to change those dollar amounts if needed.”

Eagle County, whose major cities include Edwards, Gypsum and Vail, hopes to secure at least 40 houses by the end of 2023 through its Lease to Local program. They estimate that number will house about 78 locals. Williams stressed that this program isn’t the only way the county is looking to secure more housing. 

“There's not a silver bullet to fix this housing challenge,” she said. “Our solutions have been really focused on developing new units, partnering with people who are building new units and then focusing on programs that can help people today.”

To qualify for the Lease to Locals stipend, properties must be located in Eagle County and rent cannot exceed 100 percent of the county median income. Leases can be either seasonal, lasting five months or more, or long-term, for 12 months or more.