PI Editorial: Supporting affordable housing for less than a cup of coffee | PostIndependent.com

PI Editorial: Supporting affordable housing for less than a cup of coffee

Post Independent Editorial Board

Editor’s note: To clarify, Mayor Jonathan Godes continues to support the 2.5% lodging tax that will go to voters in November.

Voters have the chance to add one more arrow to the (hopefully) expanding quiver of affordable housing solutions this fall.

On the ballot will be a simple question: whether or not to pass a 2.5% lodging tax so those who book a stay in Glenwood Springs will pay less than the cost of a Starbucks coffee for every $100 their room costs.

The revenue generated will be dedicated exclusively to help foster affordable housing development in the community. It’s not tied to any particular project and could be used for many different things.

It’s not a one-shot solution, but the broad support it’s received from the community and many of our marquee hospitality businesses as well make it a valuable tool.

We hope the voters will agree in November.

Affordable housing is now the primary concern for most Glenwood Springs residents as well as many throughout Garfield County and the Roaring Fork Valley. In 2021, 63% of respondents to a Glenwood Springs city survey rated available housing choice as poor.

And no matter whether you’re impacted by the current housing market or bought in before the pricing surge, you’re bound to notice the reduced business hours, perpetual “now hiring” signs and more throughout our community. Affordable housing is not just impacting the quality of life for many of our residents, it’s also quickly becoming an economic liability.

Some might say this is just another way to get Glenwood Springs to grow, but that thinking ignores that housing is a problem for the people already living and/or working here. Too many people who rent end up heading farther and farther west, only to have to drive more miles and spend more time commuting to help keep Glenwood Springs’ business community going.

The revenue generated will likely be around $1 million a year, which everyone knows is nowhere near enough to make a significant dent in our affordable housing need. But it will help lay the foundation for possible grants, loans and more. No matter how much money you think is needed, the lodging tax will absolutely mean we can do more next year than we could this year to combat the challenge.

Mayor Jonathan Godes and Hotel Colorado Manager Christian Henny both spoke to our editorial board and thoughtfully answered questions about what they think about the lodging tax, which we thank them for.

Godes supports passage of the 2.5% lodging tax as a start, but has not been shy about stating he thinks the proposed tax is not high enough to generate the revenue needed to truly enact affordable housing solutions. At this time, it’s a moot point, but we would encourage him and other supporters of a higher lodging tax to see this as the opportunity to think creatively in the future. Rather than come back to the lodging tax well once again, what other revenue streams could we develop to help with affordable housing funding? Other communities have enacted dedicated sales tax, dining and drinking tax and more to help with their housing needs. 

As a representative of Glenwood Springs’ vital hospitality industry, Henny said the tax as proposed is something many lodging businesses could support. They might not parade down the street asking for their customers’ taxes to be raised, but solutions are absolutely needed. He also pointed to the opportunity we have here to keep our community feel. While Glenwood Springs is a resort community, it has the heart and soul of a true small town. Neighbors run into each other at the grocery store or post office. We feel a shared familiarity that many other resort communities lack, but we could lose that if we fail to move forward on addressing our housing crisis.

Again, the lodging tax won’t solve all of this on its own. Some might say passing it would be a “win” but we think that’s too final. Instead, we should recognize it for what it is: the first of what should be many more policy measures to help keep Glenwood Springs a community for our workers for years to come.

The Post Independent editorial board members are Editor Peter Baumann, Managing Editor/Senior Reporter John Stroud, and community representatives Mark Fishbein and Danielle Becker.

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