Affordable housing an identified issue to recruiting and retaining seasonal, as well as year round employees in Estes Park. There are currently around 400 open job opportunities in Estes Park that aren't filled, and lack of housing impacts the decisions of individuals looking to relocate to our community. When individuals move to a town and cannot find housing, they quickly move out. In my time supervising and hiring staff, there were many times we would go through the full process of interviews for full time, benefited positions and may have to go through our top 3 candidates before someone would accept. Many well qualified candidates would decline an offer after visiting and seeing the lack of housing opportunity. Are we getting our strongest workforce if we are losing our top candidates? This effects seasonal workers as well. When I first lived here, many of my friends worked multiple jobs and had a steady income, but had to live out of their car or "camp" because they couldn't find a place to live. Unstable living situations results in an unreliable workforce, high turnover results in decreased levels of customer service.
Below I've outlined some of my thoughts on housing in Estes Park:
Affordable housing solutions can be environmentally friendly. Many individuals see affordable housing developments as negatively impacting the environment. They think building high density, affordable housing in an open lot will ruin the environment without considering the alternate environmental impacts. People who can't find housing in Estes Park end up living in a more affordable Front Range community and commuting 30 minutes to over an hour each day. There are 2,000 workers that commute to Estes Park. The wear on our roads, increased traffic congestion, and pollution negatively impacts our infrastructure, environment, air quality, and wildlife.
Also, as our town grows further outward this sprawl is worse on the environment than increasing density on property within Town. Building up the "inner core" of Estes Park is the most environmentally friendly option, which brings me to my next point...
Increase high density housing in the inner core of town. Many individuals first reaction is fear that allowing high density housing will ruin the town character or impact their property values. They consider development and large crowds evil- although these things are the foundation of the tourist economy. While practically all traditional, low density neighborhoods in Estes Park are outside of city limits, many of the houses in these areas are left empty throughout most of the year because they are second homes. These outer areas of town demand citizens to drive long distances to run a simple errand. How often have you procrastinated going to Safeway in the summer months because it wasn't worth the 20 minute drive and long lines? A smart community would have accessible housing closer to these community essentials like the library, grocery store, post office, etc. Finding housing solutions so that families and seasonal workers have easy access to these fundamental needs creates a smart, efficient, and sustainable community. This would increase pedestrian movement through town, adding to the character and culture of our community.
Proper planning is necessary. If planned properly, high density housing solutions should be placed near transit routes or near the inner core, as described in my previous point. F.O Stanley did not plan for the sprawl in 1915 that we are experiencing today. Growth occurred quickly and unchecked and our infrastructure is suffering the impact. Building up our community from the inside out will bring welcome changes.
There are many solutions to issues plaguing our workforce. It's important to realize nothing is locked in time and that with proper leadership and planning, mountain towns can have affordable housing while keeping its character, environment, and rich history in tact. I am committed to the community of Estes Park.