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Ski Town Struggles To Fill 6-figure Job Because Candidates Can’t Afford Housing

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Ski Town Struggles To Fill 6-figure Job Because Candidates Can’t Afford Housing

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Steamboat Springs, Colorado, has a problem that’s prevalent among all resort communities where housing costs far exceed local incomes: recruiting staff. That’s because job candidates say they can’t afford to live there. 

While home prices and rents have soared across the country over the past year, rent and real estate prices in uber-wealthy enclaves are in a league of their own. The median listing price for homes currently available in Steamboat Springs, for example, is $2 million, according to Realtor.com. Median rent is roughly $4,000 a month according to Zillow.com. The high prices put area housing out of reach, even for those earning above-average salaries. 

Steamboat Springs city manager Gary Suiter told CBS MoneyWatch that the city government has struggled to recruit a human resources director, a management-level position with a six-figure salary to match, NBC first reported. 

“That’s the case for one position. In these higher-end resort communities, there are multiple positions at all layers of the organization that can be difficult to fill,” Suiter added. 

The city, with a population of 13,000, previously made job offers to two candidates, both of whom declined. 

“We had two recruitments previously and in both cases they couldn’t afford to live here,” Suiter said. The position’s salary? $167,000 per year.

Other local job openings pay far less, including a posting for a rodeo maintenance worker, which pays up to $29.62 an hour. 

Millennials struggling to afford homes in cities

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Signing bonuses 

Suiter said he’s all too familiar with the rising housing costs in communities like Steamboat Springs and how challenging they make it for local businesses to staff up. Wealthy individuals shell out millions for second homes in such areas and drive up housing costs, a trend that was exacerbated by the pandemic.

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The particular difficulty the city has had filling the HR director role “tells the story of what’s happening in resort communities, and it’s been happening for a long time,” he explained. “The same thing is repeating itself in higher-end areas.”

Home prices in the country’s 20 biggest metro areas went up an average of 6.7% in 2023, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller data. Across the nation as a whole, housing prices rose more than 5% over the last year, pushing home ownership out of reach even for high-income earners. 

To make the six-figure offer more palatable, Suiter said the city has added a signing bonus that — for the right candidate — is negotiable. 

“We will provide a signing bonus within reason, if it’s necessary to recruit the most qualified person,” he said. 

Dormitory-style housing

It is harder to house members of the city’s roughly 300-person government staff, many of whom earn far less than six figures annually, Suiter said. The city is in the process of building dormitory-style housing to accommodate some of them. 

Housing challenges “permeate every level of the organization,” Suiter said. “It’s not only with management positions, it’s boots-on-the-ground jobs. Bus drivers have been difficult to recruit, especially during the pandemic with the mask mandate.”

The town’s world-class ski resort provides up to 800 beds for staff “at below market rate,” according to a resort spokesperson.



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