Roommate Roundup helps with housing crunch | ParkRecord.com

Roommate Roundup helps with housing crunch

Kristina Eastham, Of the Record staff

Zach Keyes, Alex Fancher and Chris Greene were all there to round up roommates for the season.

Keyes and Fancher, who came to Park City together from Daytona, Fla., have been searching for a house for less than a week. In the mean time they’ve been bouncing from the Best Western to their boss’s house. Greene on the other hand has been living out of his car for five months, mostly at Jordanelle State Park. But the park closed with the start of winter and now he is looking for a permanent place to live.

The three began talking and networking at the Alpine Internet Café at Wednesday night’s Roommate Roundup, hosted by the Mountainlands Community Housing Trust.

"We’d move out into Heber but we don’t have transportation," Fancher said. The 19-year-old boys moved to Park City to work in the ski rental equipment shop at Park City Mountain Resort.

Fancher said he is having his car shipped out here in January, but in the mean time must rely on public transportation. He estimates that he’s called over 100 listings looking for somewhere to rent. The boys say they aren’t picky and are willing to take anything from a studio a multi-bedroom house even if it means finding other roommates.

Networking with those potential roommates is exactly what the Roommate Roundup is for.

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MCHT has been hosting these casual get-togethers on Wednesday nights since the beginning of November, as more seasonal workers like Fancher and Keyes come into town and the housing demand soars.

The meeting began with Sharon Neu and Michel Boroff of MCHT explaining some of the challenges surrounding seasonal rentals. Neu estimates she had listings for over 130 people looking to rent rooms.

"They tell you they’re desperate," Neu said.

Throughout the meeting a crowd of about 15 to 20 seasonal workers voiced complaints, such as how a lot of ads wanted female renters only, and asked questions about transportation to and from Park City. Neu responded that if a person is renting out a room in their own house, then it is their right to specify the gender of the renter. She told resort workers to check with their respective resorts on transportation to and from towns outside of Park City.

Neu is a specialist in fair housing rights. She and Boroff explained the many issues surrounding looking for a house, especially to international workers. For instance, Boroff suggested getting a pay-as-you-go cell phone so renters can return inquiries. And Neu recommended against purchasing an inexpensive car for the few months they will be here, because insurance is mandatory and can be incredibly expensive.

Neu recommended that anyone with a car look for housing outside of the Park City area, answered questions about the bus routes and explained issues relating to the Sundance Film Festival. She warned that if properties aren’t rented by Christmas, many renters will wait until the film festivals and rent the properties to visitors for the week, earning much more than they could charge seasonal workers for the entire month.

Tim Dahlin, the Executive Director of the Christian Center of Park City, also stopped by to inform the temporarily homeless about services the center offers. For instance, the Christian Center Thrift Shoppe provides affordable, used furnishings if they find an unfurnished property, and even offers to deliver. They also have a no-questions-asked food bank and free dinners once a week, beginning the second week in January.

Both MCHT and the Christian Center provide places to use the Internet and telephones while searching, and even just a place to hang out. MCHT also offers help with reading and understanding leases.

After they provided general housing information and handed out a 15-page listing sheet on potential rooms for rent, the meeting turned into a casual networking situation as people exchanged information on housing leads and transportation.

Despite peoples’ desires to cram houses full of renters to cut costs, Neu warned against violating lease agreements, explaining that even exceeding the limit by one is grounds for eviction.

"Landlords are aware that they can get more rent for their properties," Neu said.

Dahlin, Boroff and Neu are continuing to encourage Park City residents to open up extra rooms to the seasonal workers that contribute to keeping this tourist-dependent town running.

"They can set their own rules," Boroff said of homeowners.

During the meeting she encouraged kids to be respectful, shovel driveways and do other chores around the house if they find a room to rent.

"If we want Park City to stay a destination ski resort town [and] if you’re going to go recruit kids to come here, we have to offer them places to live," Boroff said.