You know that Americans are escaping the cities. Many are fleeing to their vacation homes or favorite resort towns. Where the local economy is all about the service industry whether it’s skiing in North Conway, sailing in Newport, or vacationing in Key West, it’s the lift attendants, waiters, and cooks who stir the drink. Those workers can’t find housing among all the competition from new arrivals. Take a look at the rental vacancy rate of 0.7% in North Conway, NH for example, and see how resorts are running (to be kind) at an 80% staffing rate because employees can’t find anywhere to live nearby. The Boston Globe reports:
In 2019, buying a home in New England ski country was feasible for locals and out-of-towners alike.
In Stowe, Vt., for example, the median cost of a single-family home in February 2019 was $442,500, according to realtor.com, and availability was about normal — with 65 to 85 homes on the market, Michael Hickey, president of the Vermont Association of Realtors, said last month.
Today, “normal’’ is a long way off. As of press time, there were only eight homes on the market in Stowe. Of those, just one was listed for under $1 million.
It doesn’t get easier for renters. In North Conway, N.H., the vacancy rate for rentals was 0.7 percent at the end of 2021, drastically below the typical 5 percent in a well-balanced market, Harrison Kanzler, executive director of the Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition and a former state legislator, said.
It’s no secret that the pandemic has slammed the affordable housing market across the country. But in remote vacation destinations — places like Stowe and North Conway, where people fled for open space during the height of the pandemic — the impact is even more pronounced, and it’s taking a toll on the already vulnerable: seasonal and part-time workers.
Across New England, ski resorts are facing staffing shortages, and a lack of available, affordable housing is partly to blame. Loon Mountain, Sugarloaf, and Sunday River are all at roughly 80 percent of their full staffing levels, Julie Ard, senior vice president for corporate communications at owner Boyne Resorts, said in an e-mail.
“There are many short-term rental properties that offer weekly rates but few long-term rental options, making it difficult for seasonal, part-time, and full-time workers,’’ Ard said.
It’s a similar situation at the Killington and Pico resorts in Vermont, where there are about 1,200 employees this season, down from 1,800 in a normal season, spokesperson Kristel Killary said via e-mail.
“A lot of ski areas will tell you that they have people interested in working, but their next question is well, do you have housing? And often the answer is no, and they can’t necessarily point people to opportunities either,’’ said Jessyca Keeler, president of Ski New Hampshire, a trade association that represents 33 sites across the state.
The causes are multifold, each exacerbated by the pandemic. One of the most controversial is the increase in short-term rentals. In Vermont, that number grew exponentially, from 1,000 in 2015 to 8,000 in 2019, according to the Vermont Housing Finance Agency. The more homes and apartments are listed as short-term rentals, the more difficult it is for seasonal workers to find affordable housing. Living in a short-term rental for the entire season is likely out of the question: In Carroll County, N.H., home to North Conway, it can be as expensive to stay in a short-term rental for a week as it is to rent an apartment for a month, Kanzler said.
Action Line: The problems faced by resort towns may be self-correcting. Without employees to service resorts, their popularity will wane, and the city escapees will move on, or move back to the cities. In the meantime, you need to examine your own living situation. Are you living in a state that works for you? Your Survival Guy calls the states looking at their residents like valued customers, like Florida, Super States. Those looking at their residents like a piggy bank from which to withdraw money, like California, are the Escape States. If you are serious about making the move from an Escape State to a Super State, but can’t get going on your goal, I can help. Click here to subscribe to my free monthly Survive & Thrive letter, and I’ll help you break inertia and achieve your goal of freedom. But only if you’re serious.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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