Seasonal worker housing shortage continues to bedevil Park City as ski season begins
As skiers and second-home owners make their way into Park City this winter, so too will more than a thousand seasonal workers whom the community counts on to serve gourmet meals, mix craft cocktails and run high-speed chairlifts.
Though vacation homes, which can sit empty for months out of the year, line the hillsides, finding places for seasonal workers to lay their heads remains as elusive of a goal as ever. According to Mountainlands Community Housing Trust Executive Director Scott Loomis, the past two decades haven’t shown that the situation is getting any better.
“It’s pretty much the same every year; more people than there are beds,” said Loomis, who runs one of the area’s primary housing nonprofits. “All of a sudden, people land somewhere and are maybe doubling up, tripling up in a room.”
Advocates say the scramble for housing in Park City has led to situations in the past where seasonal workers have been taken advantage of or have been otherwise left to find housing however they can.
So far, an effort spearheaded by the Christian Center of Park City to help house international students working in town this winter has been slow to get off the ground, said Executive Director Pete Stoughton. Only six homeowners have signed up to rent portions of their homes to those workers, who are often young and still learning English.
Loomis said that nonprofits like Mountainlands and the Christian Center can’t make a dent in the housing crisis on their own, and that local business interests need to step up as well.
“Frankly, we’ve reached out to the business community because we think it’s their responsibility and not ours,” Loomis said. “Most of them think it’s someone else’s issue, so we’ve become less and less interested in dealing with it each year.”
Stoughton said stereotypes that seasonal workers and international J-1 visa holders are disruptive to homes and communities can hurt as well.
“We found that a lot of the students who are coming are really excited about living with families,” Stoughton said.
For their part, Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort, two of the area’s largest employers of seasonal workers, have also signed on to the Christian Center’s effort and are implementing their own initiatives to house their employees.
Chris Lampe, director of human resources at Deer Valley, said in an email that the resort has increased its workforce housing this season and can now house 16% of its seasonal workers — 400 people in total. Deer Valley also assists employees with transportation by subsidizing UTA bus passes, chartering a private commuter shuttle to and from Heber and working with City Hall on carpooling initiatives, among other things.
PCMR, meanwhile, aims to have 1,100 beds in Canyons Village available to workers in time for the 2020-21 season, according to spokesperson Jessica Miller. That project is being undertaken by the Canyons Village Management Association.
“Seasonal workforce housing remains a top priority across all of the mountain resort communities in which Vail Resorts operates,” Miller said in an email.
Park City resident Becky Yih, a member of the Christian Center’s student housing task force, has rented out a portion of her home to seasonal workers for years. She said other homeowners can get involved by either signing up for the nonprofit’s initiative, or independently by starting with researching various local Facebook pages and Craigslist/KSL listings for housing.
Also important: being understanding.
“You have to keep in mind that these are students from far away, who probably have not been out of the country before,” Yih said.
Yih said that homeowners interested in housing seasonal workers should also consider how many people they can house, a reasonable rate for rent and what set of house rules would be best for them. And because many international workers don’t have access to a car, homes near bus routes are preferred.
Stoughton said it isn’t too late for Park City homeowners to sign onto the Christian Center’s program by visiting ccofpc.org/international-student-housing/.
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