Steamboat voters reject a 24 million dollar donation for a new affordable housing project that was slated to be the largest in the state.  Why did Steamboat walk away from the project?  Why is this rejection important for other mountain communities and what does this say about real estate projects in the future?  What just happened in Blue River to reiterate the changing mountain towns?

What was the brown ranch affordable housing project?

The Brown Ranch project started when an anonymous donor in 2021 gave the Yampa Valley Housing Authority $24 million to buy a 534-acre ranch west of the city. The authority spent two years working on a plan to build 2,264 affordable units by 2040 and the city annexed 420 acres of the parcel last year.

Brown Ranch was one of the largest affordable housing  proposals ever on the Western Slope, with plans to use $240 million in tax revenue from short-term rentals, along with municipal debt and grants to cover an  estimated $484 million for infrastructure, open space and public safety facilities in the community.

Voters handily reject the brown ranch proposal

Even after the city council gave the green light to the proposal, citizens united to force the measure onto the ballot where the measure was easily defeated.  Why was the measure defeated?

  1. Size: the Brown ranch was set to increase the population of steamboat by about 6k people, this is roughly a 50% increase from it’s current population
  2. Cost: The new project was slated to cost close to 500 million dollars to be funded by grants, nightly rental taxes, etc.. but even with these various revenue sources was underfunded that would have to be absorbed by taxpayers
  3. Impacts to community: Voters were united in the impact to the community.  The proposal would increase the amount of the people in the community by 50% yet there were no provisions for wider roads, parks, increased police/fire needs, etc…

Brown Ranch shows the huge change in electorate in ski towns

The rejection of the Brown Ranch shows a huge change in Colorado ski town demographics.  I believe if this same vote was held 7-10 years ago it would have passed easily, but the demographics of the ski towns has changed.

There are now considerably more full time residents in the various Colorado ski towns that are not reliant on tourism.  Many of the new residents have chosen the respective ski town for the quality of life and there ability to work remotely/flexibility to live in a ski town year round.

Furthermore, as prices have skyrocketed in every ski town, the cost to live there has also increased exponentially pushing many  lower paid workers out of Steamboat into surrounding communities (Craig, Hayden, Oak Creek, etc..) for affordable housing.  This has further concentrated the voting among much higher net worth homeowners.  This same trend is happening in every single Colorado ski town.

Blue River another example of the huge changes in ski towns

The recent election in Blue River reiterates the changing electorate.  Blue River voters elected newcomer Nicholas Decicco as mayor, Tuesday, April 2, ousting incumbent candidate Toby Babich, according to unofficial results the town government shared in an email. The owner of Breckenridge Resort Managers, Babich had served as mayor since 2017, when he was first appointed to the position.

Residents in the small Colorado town also switched up the status quo the Blue River Board of Trustees, with the unofficial results showing that newcomers Jodie Willey, Jonathon Heckman and and Barrie Stimson beat incumbents Kelly Finley and Mark Fossett.

Decicco, who is employed as the director of ski and snowboard operations for R&R Sports Colorado, has lived in Blue River for 12 years. In a candidate questionnaire on the town’s website, he named sustainable development, regulation of short-term rentals and road maintenance as his top issues.  The election in Blue River shows first hand what is happening in every ski town with a huge emphasis on quality of life over tourism.  This is a radical shift from just a few years ago.


Changing electorate of ski towns has huge implications for real estate.

The Brown ranch itself was not a monumental decision for other ski towns, but the changing demographics exhibited by voters that defeated the initiative is the real story.  The Brown ranch will have far reaching implications to ski town real estate.  We have seen this in the nightly rental discussions/legislation where ever ski town has placed some sort of restriction (caps, taxes, prohibitions, etc…).  The Brown ranch shows that discussions on nightly rentals and tourism in general are just getting started. Look for considerably more legislation to address quality of life measures form nightly rental to traffic to increased building.  Remember only full time residents get to vote and the new full time residents are using this opportunity to reign in tourism, nightly rentals, and various other real estate projects that could impact quality of life.


Additional Reading/Resources




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Written by Glen Weinberg, Owner Fairview Commercial Lending.  Glen has been published as an expert in hard money lending, real estate valuation, financing, and various other real estate topics in Bloomberg, Businessweek ,the Colorado Real Estate Journal, National Association of Realtors MagazineThe Real Deal real estate news, the CO Biz Magazine, The Denver Post, The Scotsman mortgage broker guide, Mortgage Professional America and various other national publications.

Glen resides in Colorado, lends in Colorado, owns property in Colorado, and services loans in Colorado which provides a unique real estate prospective of what is actually happening on the ground both in Denver and throughout Colorado.  My goal from this blog is to provide an honest assessment of what I see happening in Colorado real estate and how it will impact real estate owners, buyers, realtors, mortgage professionals, etc…

Fairview is the recognized leader in Colorado Hard Money and Colorado private lending focusing on residential investment properties and commercial properties  both in Denver and throughout the state. We are the Colorado experts having closed thousands of loans throughout the Front range, Western slope, resort communities, and everywhere in between.  We also live, work, and play in the mountains throughout Colorado and understand the intricacies of each market.

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