A Housing Crisis Plagues Rural Resort Towns

Mortgage News May 9, 2023

Resort communities in rural areas are renowned for their exceptional ski lodges, breathtaking views of mountains or oceans and exhilarating outdoor activities. Nevertheless, in recent times, these holiday destinations have also attracted affluent visitors seeking refuge from the frenzied urban lifestyle. Unfortunately, what tends to be disregarded are the locals who maintain the functioning of ski resorts, rafting expeditions, eateries, and drinking spots, as well as the schools, medical facilities, and overall community.

Sun Valley, Idaho, where the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference is held, also known as the “summer camp for billionaires,” is grappling with a housing crisis. While the median home listing price in Sun Valley was $1.5 million in March 2023, up 56.8% YoY, the median income for residents is just $50,833, with a poverty rate of 10.5%. This is almost equivalent to Idaho’s poverty rate of 11.0%.

The issue of vacation homes and vacant properties isn’t exclusive to Sun Valley. In Alcona County, Michigan, a favored summer spot that was recognized as one of the top 10 vacation counties in the United States by the National Association of Realtors, almost 50% of the housing supply is made up of homes that are only occupied during the vacation season. However, the poverty level in the county, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, is over 15%.

Martha’s Vineyard, the picturesque island off the Massachusetts coast that attracts celebrities and presidents, is facing similar difficulties. During the summer, the town’s population surges from around 20,000 to nearly 100,000, and residents must move from their winter rentals to summer accommodations, which may range from a camper van to a room in someone’s house or a simple structure without proper facilities.

The issue of housing has been a persistent concern for many of these regions, spanning multiple years if not decades. To preserve the stunning vistas that lure numerous tourists, the construction of housing is restricted. In Sun Valley, for example, building projects are confined solely to the urban zones due to the presence of nearby National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands, which are off-limits for construction. Although this preserves the region’s beauty, it also leads to a shortage of housing. Similarly, in locations like Martha’s Vineyard or the Florida Keys, geographical factors impose limitations on construction.

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