Park City seasonal employees begin scramble for housing
High rents and lack of available units make it difficult to find a place
Every winter, Park City is flooded with seasonal employees and every year, those workers compete to find a reasonable place to live.
The conversation about the need for affordable housing has been going on for at least 20 years, said Scott Loomis, executive director of Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, a nonprofit focused on helping individuals and families find housing in Park City.
“It’s been a struggle every year,” he said. “Every year I think it’s worse, but every year people find a bed somewhere.”
Sometimes eight beds are crammed into a two-bedroom apartment, but employees always figure out a way to live in Park City, Loomis said. He helped launch an event in 2001 called the
Roommate Roundup, which connects people seeking housing to each other and to landlords. In recent years, the event has not been always able to meet everyone’s needs, though.
“There are always more people looking than there are people with housing,” he said.
Pete Stoughton is director of programs at the Christian Center Park City, which became involved with the Roommate Roundup about 10 years ago. The event does not attract every employee, since some rely on websites such as KSL and Craigslist, but there are still countless people frantically searching, he said. To help them, the Christian Center is reaching out to local families to see if they would be willing to host employees, especially those coming to Park City on J-1 visas from foreign countries.
Students here on J-1 visas, who stay for the duration of their work program, come for both a cultural and educational exchange, so living in a family’s home would provide more of a cultural experience than being cooped up with friends, Stoughton said. His family hosted a few seasonal workers in the past and loved it.
“Not all of the seasonal workers want to come here to party and have a great time,” he said. “Some of them want to work and be around a family and get to know what American culture is like.”
More than 600 J-1 visa students come to work in Park City every year, Stoughton said. Other workers are from the U.S. or hold H-2B visas, which is for foreign employees who are not necessarily students. But, regardless of the type of seasonal worker, almost all struggle to find places to live.
Some businesses, such as Deer Valley Resort, provide employee housing. B Deer Valley’s offerings are limited to 365 beds and the beds are quickly filled. Park City Mountain Resort is planning on including employee housing at the Canyons Village base area, Loomis said.
The housing market also changed with the introduction of AirBnB, since many people who traditionally rented seasonally or annually are finding that they can make more money by renting for a few days at a time, Loomis said.
“Now, if you come here any time of year – summertime, any time — looking for a year-round rental, there is nothing short-term,” he said. “It’s almost impossible to find.”
Part of the problem is a lack of unit availability, but another issue is the ever-increasing rental rates, he said. Rents have doubled over about six years.
Many units that are open for seasonal rentals are being sold as well because of a strong market for sellers. If owners cannot sell, they instead up the prices.
“(Renters) were paying $700, $800 a month and now we can’t find anything for less than $1,700 or $1,800 a month,” he said. “It’s a really tough market for anybody renting. For seasonal workers, it’s even tougher.”
Park City cannot run in the winter without seasonal workers, Loomis said. But when employees are unable to find housing, those that are here have to pick up the slack and work double shifts.
Stoughton added that having service workers living in Park City in good circumstances will benefit everyone.
“I don’t think that speaks very well of what our community has to offer, when kids are jammed up in fraternity-type situations,” Stoughton said. “We have a lot to offer.”
This year’s Roommate Roundup event is scheduled to run every Tuesday between 5-6 p.m. at the Park City Coffee Roasters in the Park City Library. It begins on Nov. 7 and goes to Dec. 12.
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