City of Aspen changes rental policy at Marolt seasonal housing
Workers eyeing the Marolt Ranch housing complex as their living quarters will no longer have the benefit of paying cheaper rent in the fall months.
That’s because the city of Aspen, which owns the 100-unit facility, is abandoning its tiered-rent system that was implemented during the Great Recession, when demand for worker housing plummeted.
“We used to have tiered rates after the recession because we had trouble getting people to rent the rooms,” Assistant City Manager Barry Crook said. “So the earlier you rented, you got a discount.”
For example, Crook noted, seasonal tenants would pay $853 for September and $925 in October before it was bumped up to more than $1,100 during the winter months.
But beginning this September, when seasonal employees can return, the rent will command $1,190 a month for the entire term of the leases, which expire at the end of April, Crook said.
Marolt Ranch provides dormitory-style housing for Pitkin County workers during the winter months and students of the Aspen Music Festival and School during the summer months. Four of the complex’s units are occupied by employees with long-term leases; one serves as an office.
Roughly 250 seasonal workers — who are chiefly under the employ of Aspen Skiing Co., lodges and the airport — currently reside in the units, each of which can accommodate as many as three tenants, said property manager Patrick Hinch.
This is Matthew Cull’s fifth winter at Marolt. Each season the writer/photographer paid rent through the tiered-rate system. But next winter he’ll seek housing on the free market because he said the rent increase for the early months of the lease defeats the point of living there. The one-bedroom units are equipped with a stove, microwave and a half-bathroom, while the monthly parking fee is $75, he said. He lives by himself.
“Jacking the rent up is not going to solve any problems for Aspen’s accommodations crunch,” said Cull, 55, who is from Australia. “But it will make the city of Aspen more money. … It’s a whole ton of money for the city of Aspen at the expense of people like me and local businesses” that put employees up at Marolt.
Another tenant, Stephen Smith, agreed and said the units have “crappy floors and bad walls that have no soundproofing.”
“I just think the city is getting too greedy,” he said. “It’s seems like they are gouging the kids who need a place to live.”
Most employees typically move into Marolt at the beginning of November, in advance of Aspen Mountain and Snowmass opening during Thanksgiving week, Hinch said.
But some of those employees who have reserved spots don’t show up, he said.
“In the past, you could reserve it for Oct. 15, and we would never see the person and in the meantime we’re turning people away because I’m holding an apartment,” Hinch said.
In turn, the city will not reserve units and tenancies will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis in the fall. Cull, who typically has reserved his Marolt unit in the spring and moved there in November, said he’s not going to pay rent for September and October just to secure a unit.
“What I think (Cull) is reacting is to is he’s thinking, ‘If I wait until November I may not have a place to live, so I’ve got to commit in September so I might have a place available,” Crook said.
Cull said that in many cases in the future, the city will be the beneficiary of collecting rent for unoccupied units during the shoulder-season months.
“Basically they jack the rents up and those apartments are going to sit there empty for $1,190 a month until the (workers) return,” he said.
“Employers such as Skico and individuals who need homes for seasonal workers will have to pay full rent for three months for empty housing even though they don’t need the workers until December,” he added.
Crook, however, said “there is no need” for the city to continue its tiered-rate and reservations system.
“We did that during the recession years just to drum up business,” he said.
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