Crested Butte census surprises in terms of holding onto long-term rentals

Numbers including long-term rentals hold steady from 2018

[ By Mark Reaman ]

The 2021 Crested Butte census conducted by the town staff concluded with some surprises. Given the recent discussions over disappearing long-term rental units, a wave of people moving to Crested Butte to work remotely as part of the so-called COVID “Zoom Boom,” and a perception that short-term rentals are beginning to dominate the town, the expectation was that there would be some major shifts in town numbers from 2018. That did not happen at all.

In a report to the town council on Monday, December 20, planner Patrick Church reported that “the full-time occupancy rate has remained consistent at approximately 65 percent and the long-term rental inventory has remained relatively consistent since 2018 at 32 percent of the total units (405 in 2021 compared to 393 in 2018).”

In his report, Church noted that town staff “anticipated a larger increase of full-time residents due to the Zoom Boom and a decrease in long-term rentals“ due to community feedback and narratives about significant numbers of homes converting from long-term rental to vacation rental or being owner-occupied with new transplants.

“When we compiled the stats, staff was surprised to see how little the numbers had changed,” he explained. “Based on what we’ve been hearing from the community, we expected the number of long-term rentals to drop drastically and see more second homes in town. However, both the percentage mix of unit types and their occupancies remained relatively unchanged since 2018.”

Town staff used a variety of ways to survey every residential unit in town. An online housing survey was the initial push followed by a door-to-door survey of the units that did not reply to the online survey. Finally, a records research was conducted with a follow-up door-to-door survey for homes that did not respond to the first two phases of the community count.

What the census says
Basic numbers show that the population of town increased about 3 percent between 2018 to 2021 from 1,565 to 1,616. Total residential units increased by 62 for a total of 1,244 and only 16 were considered vacant. Almost 400 units are considered owner-occupied (an increase of 26 to 399) while long-term rentals are in the same area with 405 active units. That is an increase of 32 over 2018. So, there is a full-time occupancy rate in Crested Butte of 65 percent which Church said is probably very good compared to similar resort communities. The goal of the council is to get that percentage up to 75 percent within the next five years. Second homes make up 18 percent of the units in town with 220. Vacation rentals tally 197 units.

Perhaps the most worrying element of the census is that there was a decrease in the canine population from 281 to 244.

“I have to admit, the dog statistic is a funky one,” said Church. “I feel 100 percent confident in the accuracy of the other stats: unit number, unit types, population. Those stats were easy enough to corroborate with the county assessor’s page, neighbor input, etc. My sense is that the dog stat is about as accurate as it’s ever been, which is “pretty accurate,” and that there are some dogs who weren’t reported for whatever reason. But I have wondered…is there actually a drastic decrease in dogs because so many rentals don’t allow dogs, and those dog owners have been forced to move or give their dog away? I don’t know the answer to that one. Personally, I think the more dogs the merrier.”

Stating that the census data is helpful to analyze trends and influence development regulations, the town plans to update the census every two years.

“We believe the housing census needs to be refined and expanded going forward to better document the role remote workers and the increasing real estate price points are, or are not, the causes behind the housing shortages and the displacement of local workers,” Church said. “Based on this survey, we don’t have enough information to confirm if our long-term renters are remote workers, or the local workforce.”


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