Penultimate roommate roundup meets at cafe
Nearly everyone at Bad Ass Coffee’s roommate roundup Wednesday evening had a place to work, but no place to stay.
Roundup organizer, Mountainlands Community Housing Trust housing specialist Nicole Butolph, counted 23 room-seekers more than half from Brazil, Australia, New Zealand or Argentina, and nearly all are working at area ski resorts.
Since getting the word out this weekend about the seasonal housing shortage this week, five to six homeowners have been calling MCHT daily to offer up rooms for rent, according to Bultoph, but the rooms are suitable for only one or two people at most. She suggested attendees split up into pairs. "If you find a place to stay, take it, even if it’s not so great. At this point, you can’t be picky," she advised the crowd. "You’re all probably not going to be able to live together." Mansion to the rescue Perhaps the best solution to the issue would be to find a large house for rent. Enter: Park City Planner Dave Maloney and his friend, Jason Marcus armed with floor plans for an eight-room house in Thaynes Canyon Wednesday night. Surrounded by a herd of roundup attendees deliberating in Spanish, Marcus and Maloney became heroes for the night, finding shelter for 12 Brazilians, two Argentineans and one American.
Maloney and Marquez cannot take all the credit. They found David Decker’s home on MCHT’s website, housinghelp.org. After hearing about the seasonal housing shortage, Decker decided to post his 5,600 square foot home on the site. He knew he would be remodeling in the spring, and didn’t mind renting out the rooms to seasonal workers in the meantime, he says.
"I’m not living in it, and it’s not the time of year to do a demolition," Decker explained. "It’s a big house with about six bathrooms and this is a great place for young people who are here seasonally to have a nice place to live."
He did express some concern about what his neighbors might think of his "international contingent of seasonal help."
"I hope this doesn’t irritate other residents in Thaynes Canyon," he said. "Some people get grouchy about the whole rental thing, you know." One of the lucky Thaynes Canyon renters Camargo Oliveira, 21, arrived in Salt Lake City on Nov. 29 to work at Deer Valley Resort, he says, and has since been staying with six of his friends in a Yarrow hotel room. He is originally from a town outside of Rio de Janeiro and this is his first time in Utah and his first time in the United States, he says. "Some guys I know said there would be accommodation," he claims. "But everything is full." Are there homeless seasonal workers living out of cars? Though perhaps there are some, Butolph cannot confirm that seasonal workers are living out of cars — in fact, many don’t own cars — but she says she has never seen so many people still looking for rooms at this time of year. Most are living on friends’ couches or squeezing into hotel rooms, she says. "Unfortunately, there’s no hostel for [seasonal workers] to stay at. The Base Camp [hostel] on Main Street closed this November, and that was a really great resource," Butolph said. "As far as I know, it’s just sitting there now with a bunch of empty rooms." At the Nov. 30 roundup, Butolph spoke with more than 40 people at Bad Ass. She plans on having one more event at the cafe next week, Dec. 14, before the holidays, to help a few more people with housing and roommates. Why the shortage? Tim Dahlin, who directs Park City’s Christian Center, has also seen a staggering number of seasonal workers seeking housing help this year. "We get groups of five, six, seven, eight people coming in, and it usually takes them about a week to find a place," he said. "On my desk right now, I’ve got 25 names of people looking for spots." Property owners have run out of inventory for the most part, he says, and then there are homeowners who would prefer a longer lease and older tenants who have graduated from school, he says — which does not fit the profile of the typical seasonal worker. "For individual homeowners, it’s that they don’t want to rent to kids," he claims. "I’ve talked to two of them within the last week, and they’ve said, ‘I just don’t trust them, if something goes wrong, I can’t find them, they leave, they go back to South America, and I can’t collect on any damages.’" The other homeowner he spoke with said he remembered what he was like when he was young and that he would not rent to anyone like himself, Dahlin said. "It seems like they’d rather let the house stand empty than risk it," he concluded. Dahlin adds that he’s puzzled as to why there would be a seasonal housing shortage, since he has reason to believe that resorts recruited fewer international workers this year than in years past. Deer Valley Resort Human Resources Director Kim Mayhew confirms that at 300 international workers, the resort has recruited 100 fewer workers than it did last winter. But the resort also has fewer workers in general. By this time last year, more positions had been filled. "This spring we decided to cut down on international recruiting since our domestic hiring had been so good," she explained. "We had no idea that this year turnout at the Salt Lake, Provo and [Park City] Chamber/Bureau job fairs would be so poor." Hiring at the resort has fluctuated in the past few years according to the economy’s swings, and local residents have been willing to take on seasonal jobs, but not this year, Mayhew says. The resort still needs cooks and lift operators. A typical Deer Valley liftee earns $4,500 a season at $7.75 cents an hour with a 50-cent hourly bonus paid out at the end of the season, according to Mayhew. The seasonality makes it tough for domestic workers, she says, so they end up choosing year round jobs instead. "It’s not just here. I’ve talked to colleagues at other resorts in Colorado and California there’s an industry-wide [shortage of seasonal workers,]" Mayhew claims.
Mayhew cannot account for the large amount of Brazilians who come in, since Deer Valley does not recruit in that country, she says.
Brazil is a country that issues what she calls "independent" J-1 visas to students, which means those issued the visa do not need proof that they will have housing or shelter when they arrive in the United States.
"We get kids who walk through the door with their suitcases to fill out an application, and then they ask us for housing help," Mayhew explains. "We can’t prepare for that."
Deer Valley provides housing for 170 of its employees, and gives priority to early recruits, she says, and at this point, all beds are full. Odd man out: an Internet solution Roundup attendee Brad Proudfoot, 21, drove out from Washington, D.C., to work as a Park City Mountain Resort liftee, after spending last winter at Snowbird Ski Resort. Last year, through Snowbird’s Web site, Proudfoot was able to find housing by contacting other resort workers who had posted their contact information to meet a roommate, he says. None of the Park City area resorts offer similar employee Web sites that he could find, Proudfoot claims. He found contacts for potential roommates, but did not get housing Wednesday night. "I spent a summer in Ocean City, Maryland and coming out here this winter is all I talked about," Proudfoot told The Park Record. "I didn’t realize how though it was going to be to find a place to live."
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The Summit County Board of Health has selected Phil Bondurant to be the Health Department’s next director, opting for continuity rather than a broad candidate search while the department continues to navigate the pandemic and its aftereffects.