Workforce Housing

People are at the heart of every economy, and businesses thrive in locations that attract and retain talented individuals and families.  Workforce Housing has become an important challenge in many of the most successful metropolitan areas, as well as in many mountain resort communities. 

The Estes Park Economic Development Corporation (Estes Park EDC) is committed to addressing workforce housing as it is a fundamental building block for the Estes Valley’s economic health and vitality. This need was identified in our 2015 Economic Development Strategy as a top priority. Since then, a number of initiatives have been undertaken to define the workforce housing issue and to begin work on implementing solutions. Due to steps taken by the Town of Estes Park, we have a unique opportunity to foster both private investment and public-private partnerships to begin addressing the workforce and attainable housing needs in the Estes Valley. To read the full report, double click above.

Inadequate housing availability is a challenge in many Colorado Mountain communities and Estes Park is no different. In this video, major employers talk about how a lack of workforce housing affects their businesses.

Estes Park EDC Workforce Housing Committee: Meeting #2 - Community at Risk: A Discussion of Possible Solutions to Housing Needs in the Estes Valley.

This report, created by the Estes Valley League of Women Voters, is a written summary of the Estes Park EDC's second forum.

In January of 2016, the Estes Park Housing Authority completed an Estes Park Housing Needs Assessment report, which demonstrates a large potential market, especially for rental units.  The report concluded that:

“Between 1,480 and 1,690 housing units are needed to address current workforce housing shortages and keep up with future demand. This averages about 300 to 340 units per year, which is well above the number of residential building permits issued during any one of the last five years.”

This Housing Needs Assessment quantifies current and future workforce housing needs in the Estes Park area, identifies where the market is not addressing those needs and provides recommendations on how those needs could be addressed.

Where applicable, it compares results to the 2008 Estes Valley Housing Needs Assessment which was conducted just prior to the recession, to understand how conditions have changed post recession and post flood. It answers questions such as how much, what type, and at which price points housing is needed to meet the needs of the local workforce. Information is presented on past trends, current conditions and housing needs projected through 2020. 

The Town of Estes Park has a Workforce Housing Page with information about Purpose, Goals and current Proposals. To access that page, please click here. 

Workforce Housing Forum Defined Problem, Offered Solutions

Workforce Housing


Rita Kurelja, Director of the Estes Park Housing Authority gave a succinct presentation on previous and current workforce housing issues and statistics. “Without housing, potential employees are not going to choose Estes Park,” stated Kurelja.

Randy Brigham, Chief Human Resources Officer with the Estes Park Medical Center said that EPMC has approximately 340 current employees and 31 job openings. He went on to say that 29% of the employees commute into Estes Park. “One of the things to think about is the amount of money that leaves the community with commuter employees. In our case, it’s just over six million dollars.”

Scott Pope, Vice President and CFO of the YMCA of the Rockies stated that approximately 25% of their employees commute in as well. He went on to say that they’ve seen a number of qualified applicants who would love to live in the Estes Valley but about half of them will drop out when they see how difficult it is to secure housing.

Anthony DeSousa, owner of Antonio’s Pizza said that his biggest problem is retaining employees. “What I’ve seen is that park visitation has increased year over year and that means more work for all of us. Thank God for international workers but the State Department is going to make it harder for international seasonal employees to get here. Business is up 26% over last year but where do I get 26% more workers?” He went on to say, “We all need to make room for people trying to climbing the ladder to success.”

Diane Muno, owner of the Spruce House and several businesses said “It’s not just our large employers that should be part of the conversation, this has to be a community conversation and a community solution. We have to remember that our workforce contributes to this community too. They take their kids to school, they sit on nonprofit boards and they are here but we need to offer them more opportunities.”

Randy Hunt, Director of Community Development said that the Estes Valley Development Code is not serving the valley as well as it could. He said that there are nine current proposed changes to the Development Code that are online at the Town’s website and that the building height in mixed residential zones for workforce housing is just one piece to a bigger puzzle. “There are three things that we can do. One, spread out, two, go up, or three, do neither and watch things get worse. So the choice to go up is a practical choice.”

Real Estate Agent and Developer Seth Hanson said that from a developer’s perspective it’s a formula, and they trying to figure out if a project is viable. “I have fixed costs that are what they are so the only thing you can play with is density. If we need to make things affordable we need more units to get my costs down.”

Architect Steve Lane agreed with Seth. “In terms of height, if you think about your site, you have building, parking lot etc. So if you build out, you get a hard surface with no green space. It also creates drainage issues. So an aid in creating more green space, a better product and smaller footprint is a height increase.”

Business owner Greg Rosener said “I want to talk about our retirement community. They obviously have a say in what happens here. But without a solid workforce, there’s less money coming through the community and their services are going to suffer. If nothing is done to resolve the workforce housing issue, then the Housing Study that was done should just be put away. Without action, these studies mean nothing.”

(Video) Public Forum on Workforce Housing by the Estes Park EDC Workforce Housing Committee