2C: Glenwood Springs’ lodging-tax increase passes

A man drops off his voting ballot.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

With a lead of roughly a few hundred votes, Glenwood Springs’ ballot measure to increase the lodging tax for affordable housing development looked likely to pass on Tuesday night.

Shortly before midnight, 2C was passing with 1,948 votes in favor and 1,611 votes against.

“I’m happy for our community,” said campaign leader Clark Anderson. “While it’s not a silver bullet, the resources and capacity this creates are meaningful. We can make a dent in our workforce housing needs and that’s awesome.”

Garfield County has had a growing need for affordable housing for the local workforce with few outlets to support that need, said Anderson.  

“I’m extremely proud of the committee and their ability to get the word out to the community,” said Mark Gould, a member of the Glenwood Springs ad hoc committee, Ballot Question 2C supporter and local business owner.

Ballot Question 2C aims to fill some small portion of the need for housing with an investment plan that will retrieve funding from a short-term rental tax on the local lodging community which includes hotels, motels and Airbnbs. 

“You can’t ask every person to come from out of town to work for us,” Gould said. “It’s so important that the committee and community got the support from the hospitality community for this.”

The measure proposes to bring $1.3 million to $1.6 million to the city of Glenwood Springs to invest in workforce housing through a 2.5% lodging tax increase. That funding is aimed to use an assortment of different ways to provide housing including utilizing hotel conversions and accessory dwelling units. 

“The only surprise is the fairly close margin compared to similar ballot issues in other municipalities, indicating the lack of trust in Glenwood Springs City Council to effectively administer this housing proposal,” said Zac Parsons, a member of the opposing group Citizens Concerned About City Council. “We will be watching closely to see whether the city government responsibly handles this increase to their already record tax revenues.”

Council Member Tony Hershey said the vote shows a community willing to take a leap of faith, and hoped that it would be managed respectfully and wisely.

“The people of Glenwood Springs have put a great deal of faith in the Glenwood Springs City Council,” Hershey said. “I hope they can fulfill their trust.”

Mayor Jonathan Godes said the vote shows the community recognizes the importance of taking action to help make housing more attainable for residents.

“The people have spoken and have said that in order for our economy, and the city to thrive, we need a workforce housing program,” said Mayor Jonathan Godes. “Tonight the community voted to preserve the diversity and vibrancy that makes Glenwood a great place to live, work and run a business.”

Multiple studies conducted by the city of Glenwood Springs have found that more than a quarter of homeowners and more than half of the city’s renters are cost burdened or paying more than a third of their income on housing. 

“Our community gets it,” Anderson said. “People know housing is a critical challenge, they just needed to understand how 2C can help. We were lucky to have an amazing group of people working to inform voters — knocking on doors, visiting with businesses, talking with community groups — and get the word out. It was truly a big tent and team effort.”

With the local median income at $70,700 for a two-person household and $88,300 for a four-person household, an affordable home for a family of four making the area’s median income would be $298,000 to purchase and about $2,200 a month to rent, according to the ballot question fact sheet. 

“I think this is a big win for the Glenwood Springs workforce. It couldn’t be any more important for the people,” Gould said. “Our committee got it done and I’m thrilled with the hard work.” 

The average sales price of a single-family home in Glenwood Springs last year was $769,000, and the average sales price for a condo in the city last year was $401,500. The typical rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Glenwood Springs ranged from $1,900 to $2,700, but vacancy rates remain at all-time lows, according to the sheet. 

“It’s clear that our community wants action,” Anderson said. “Now we’ll have the resources and capacity, so we need to act. Our community deserves results.”

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