As more hill town homeowners become short-term tenants to fill their homes, local employees have fewer and less affordable options.
Bob and Susan Fanch, owners of the Devil’s Thumb Ranch outside Winter Park, have noticed that the problem has been going on for the past seven years – and especially when the epidemic began – so they’ve decided to take matters into their own hands.
“Winter Park employees are making good money but they’re not making the money they can to buy a house in this kind of market, and if you don’t rent, where do you live?” Said Bob Fanch. “The answer is to create employee housing on a scale. There is probably a shortage of one thousand beds at the moment.
Last week, the couple bought their 500-acre farm and real estate at Wild Horse Inn, about two miles from the resort, a bed and breakfast for 2.7 million. They plan to convert the 2.5-acre property into three private cabins and a main lodge to accommodate Devils Thumb staff.
Wild Horse Inn opened at 1536 County Road-83 in Fraser 20 years ago, at about the same time the Fans bought the Devil’s Thumb. It has organized weddings, corporate events and leisure stays. The main lodge has seven bedrooms, including a private bathroom, and each of the three cabins has a king bed and a kitchen.
Owners Christine French and John Cribery did not respond to requests for comment, but French said the couple plans to continue their wild horse catering business elsewhere. The inn will close at the end of September.
Fanches plans to give employees rooms within the hotel for 600 per month. They already have five buildings for staff accommodation with about 60 rooms, two on the farm and three nearby.
“It’s still not enough,” Fanch said.
Prior to the epidemic, Devil’s Thumb Ranch had about 100 employees, but due to staff challenges, it has now dropped to 250. As a result the resort is forced to cap 70% of the reservation. Fanch said he wants to hire 60 or more employees.
“We had a manager at a restaurant who rented a house for ০০ 2,200 a month,” Fanch said. “When Grand Lake caught fire last summer, they ate a lot of things, and her landlord raised the rent to $ 4,200 per month, basically forcing her.”
To address the growing issue of short-term rent, Winter Park City Council last week approved a program that would encourage short-term rent or second homeowners to convert staff to housing. The council approved 325,000 for the program, which expires at the end of the year, to help 400 workers.
Owners of a studio or one-bedroom unit will receive 5,000 5,000 for a six-month lease or 10,000 10,000 for a one-year lease, and according to locals, two- or three-bedroom homes will receive 10,000 10,000 for six months and 20,000 20,000 for a one-year lease. Newspaper Sky-High News.
“But the real answer is there needs to be a big initiative to build employee and affordable housing there and elsewhere,” Fanch said.
Within a few years, Fanchara plans to build more employee housing elsewhere on the farm and restore the Wild Horse Inn as a bed and breakfast rush under the new name. The couple owns a total of five acres on either side of the hotel, so they will consider expanding the business footprint.
Other recent changes to the Devil’s Thumb include the addition of 24 home lots from 11 to 35 acres, which hit the market in late 2018. They start at 750,000 and reach 8 1.8 million. Bob says 12 have been sold.
The fans are working on a massive residential development in a winter park known as Rome, which will include more than 1,000 housing units and 70,000 square feet of commercial space on 170 acres of land between the ski area and the town next to Highway 40. The project began in 2019, and will take 20 years to build overall.