How to deal with lack of affordable employee housing in the mountains? Build a neighborhood

'Our Colorado' looks at growth in mountain towns
Posted at 4:41 PM, Apr 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-19 21:14:14-04

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SILVERTHORNE, Colo. – Colorado’s growth and booming economy is impacting mountain towns, especially when it comes to a lack of affordable housing for the local working class.

“A lot of employers are having a hard time finding employees and as the prices of housing keeps escalating, finding workforce housing at a lower income level is pretty important,” said Silverthorne Assistant Town Manager Mark Leidal.

You just have to walk into one of the town’s coffee shops to see that’s true.

“Anyone who works up here is struggling a lot,” barista Natalie Wolfe said. “You can’t buy a house up here. We’re not getting paid enough to even afford living up here so it’s a constant struggle.” 

But Silverthorne has a plan. It involves a brand new neighborhood just north of downtown along Highway 9, built on land the town owns. 

“The town purchased this land, the Smith Ranch, about ten years ago because we always knew having 50 acres of land in the heart of the community would be important for the town,” Leidal told Denver7. 

The plan is to build 200 affordable homes on those fifty acres. It would be a combination of single family homes, duplexes, and townhouses, and all would be priced for the median income level of the town. That means that if a single person made $63,000 per year, they could buy a home for about $265,000. 

Residents would get first priority in purchasing homes, all of which are planned to be deed-controlled, meaning they can’t be resold for a huge profit. 

“Hopefully we start building some of the first units this summer, August or September,” Leidal said.

The new Smith Ranch Neighborhood would increase residential housing within the town by 10 percent (not counting other developments beyond town lines). But as in many cases of growth within a small community, is it too much? 

“So it will have some impacts but I think the need is greater than the impacts we’re gonna see,” Leidal answered.

Where Smith Ranch sits, it is surrounded by market rate development where homes start at three times the price. 

“Those people that want to stay in the community, this gives them that opportunity,” Leidal added.

He says it’s also good news for people across Summit County that work regular jobs.

“It gives me hope that I can live here because I’ve been looking into moving somewhere else even though this is where I want to be forever,” Wolfe said back at the coffee shop. 

The Town of Silverthorne also has plans for neighboring commercial development on a small parcel neighboring Smith Ranch. The idea is to put a neighborhood grocery store there, along with other amenities. 

The entire neighborhood project is planned in phases, and could take several years to complete. For more information go to