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Mountain town voters make it clear, affordable housing is a top priority

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The 2021 elections lead many mountain towns to pass ballot measures to increase fees, taxes, or regulations on short-term rentals to help the affordable housing crisis. 

The pandemic and the proliferation of short-term rentals in Colorado’s mountain towns has pushed affordable housing to the limit. Prices have skyrocketed and the number of available units has dropped dramatically. “We’ve passed the breaking point", "It's gentrification on steroids", "An emergency siren is wailing"...all ways people have described the housing situation to Rocky Mountain PBS.

Voters in these towns used this 2021 off-year election to mostly introduce new regulations in the way of fees and taxes. Out of the 11 ballot questions or initiatives listed below that relate to affordable housing, nine were approved.

You can use the menu below to find out the results and what they mean for the town's effort to find more affordable housing. 


Town of Avon Ballot Issue 2C: This issue puts an excise tax of two percent on the amount charged to anyone leasing a short-term rental unit. The money then will go to funding community housing. 

It passed with about 71 percent of the votes in support of the measure. 


Town of Basalt Ballot Issue 3A: The town's debt will increase to $18 million to fund a number of construction and development projects in the town. That includes increasing the supply of affordable housing. 

It passed with about 66% of voters saying yes. 

Crested Butte

Town of Crested Butte Ballot Question 2C: This would've imposed a community housing annual tax on residential units in town that are not a primary residence, unless the home is rented out for residential purposes for at least six months. So this was meant to target second-home owners and potentially short-term rentals. This summer, town council passed an ordinance that put a one year moratorium on new short-term rental licenses. 

For ballot question 2C, voters turned it down. About 57 percent said no for this question. 

Town of Crested Butte Ballot Question 2D: This ballot question asked to raise the excise tax on vacation rentals starting in January from five percent to seven-and-a-half percent. The proceeds would then be used to create more affordable housing. 

This question overwhelming passed. Nearly 75% of voters said yes.


City of Leadville Ballot Issue 2A: This question introduces an accommodation tax of 4.92% for those leasing short-term rental units and commercial public accommodations like hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts, etc. The money would then go to fund affordable and community housing programs. 

The majority of voters said yes to this one. Nearly 70% supported this issue. 


City of Ouray Ballot Issue 2A: This asked voters whether or not there should be a 15% excise tax on the amount charged for a short-term rental. Then 50% of the money from that would go to a new wastewater treatment plant and water treatment plant. The other half would fund housing programs. 

This passed with a margin of just 75 votes. About 57% of voters supported this measure. 

[Related: While vacation homes sit empty, workers in Ouray struggle to find affordable housing]

Summit County

Summit Combined Housing Authority Referred Measure 6B: This measure asked all voters in Summit County if the existing Summit Combined Housing Authority levy should be extended for 20 years. This doesn't raise any additional taxes. The purpose would then be for the housing authority to construct workforce rentals and owner-occupied housing units. 

This passed with a wide margin. Nearly 71% of voters said yes. 


Town of Telluride Question 300:  This question was on the ballot by the efforts of a few women in town who wanted to put a cap on the number of short-term rentals in the town. The question asked to limit the number of short-term rental business licenses to 400 each year, determined by an annual lottery. 

The question failed with about 60 percent voting against it and about 40 percent for it.

In a Facebook post, the women who started the initiative wrote they are proud of the work they've done to put short-term rentals at the forefront of the housing conversation. For now, they are celebrating the wins that did happen in Telluride for more affordable housing.

[Related: Update: Telluride voters split on regulations for short-term rentals]

Town of Telluride Ballot Issue 2A: This question asked voters whether or not there should be a town lodgers' tax of two percent on the total amount of rent for those renting or getting accommodations for 29 days or less time. The money generated from this would go to help the town manage tourism and the effects of tourism. It would also fund other town needs like transportation, wastewater treatment, and more construction of affordable or employee housing.

This measure passed with about 65% of voters saying yes. 

 Town of Telluride Ballot Question 2DThis question increases the fees on business licenses for short-term rentals by about double what the current rates are. That extra money will go to the town's affordable housing fund. It also puts a cap on STRs at the current number of licenses issued for the next two years. 

This passed with about 55% of the voters approving the measure. 



Town of Vail Ballot Issue 2A:  Vail asked voters whether or not taxes should be increased by half a percent (From 4% to 4.5%) next year and to last through 2052. The revenues from the tax increase would fund housing initiatives, developments, and programs. 

A closer decision with this one, with just 129 votes being the deciding factor. It passed with about 54% of the vote. 

  Amanda Horvath is a multimedia producer with Rocky Mountain PBS. You can email her at

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