It’s no secret that the lack of affordable housing in the area has created a shortage of workers, which in turn has severely affected local businesses.

The crisis is so acute that many have reduced their hours of operation or refused new business.

Some employers have taken matters into their own hands, seeking housing solutions for their employees.

Chad Scothorn, owner and chef of Cosmopolitan restaurant, is currently building employee housing on Pine Street in Norwood with a two-bedroom unit and a one-bedroom unit under construction and is expected to be completed in November.

Scothorn is working with local builder Ross Dupuis on the development, which is three blocks from the city’s main drag, Grand Avenue.

“It’s behind the new library and three blocks from the grocery store,” Scothorn said. “Someone without a car will do very well there. Norwood is a pedestrian town.

Scothorn added that he was also liaising with the San Miguel Regional Transportation Authority on travel options to Telluride and Mountain Village.

The project is Scothorn’s second: he recently completed construction of a secondary accessory, or ADU, behind his own home in Ski Ranches.

“I have employees who live there now,” said Scothorn. “It turned out to be a real success. “

Scothorn and Dupuis are also hoping to start another Norwood-based project on land owned by Dupuis.

“It’s even closer to Main Street (than the current project), and we think we can subdivide it into 12 houses,” Scothorn said, adding that he and Dupuis are looking at modular construction this time around.

Scothorn said he hopes other business or second home owners will consider buying one of the properties and renting it out to locals.

“It’s not just an investment in Telluride and it’s not just an investment in Norwood and it’s not just an investment in your own business,” he said. “It’s just a good time to invest. We will never have too many employee housing, Norwood has relatively cheap land, unlike Ridgway or Montrose. And even if you’ve found something affordable at Ridgway or Montrose, they themselves have a shortage of employees.

Because Norwood is an area of ​​economic opportunity, he added, investors have the opportunity to benefit from federal tax incentives, including favorable treatment of reinvested capital gains and a new earnings tax exemption. in capital.

Scothorn urged other employers to consider dipping into their pandemic-linked Paycheck Protection Program (P3) money to fund housing.

“If you’ve had a good year, or a balance year and got P3 money, use that P3 money to build affordable housing,” he said.

Scothorn isn’t the only one looking for his own solutions.

In 2011, the New Sheridan Hotel converted the Roma apartment building, the historic stone building behind Coffee Cowboy it owns, from short-term units for visitors to employee housing for full-time workers. .

“We decided that in order to try to stay open, have adequate staff and maintain our commitment to high quality, we would hire exclusively to our employees at affordable prices,” said Managing Partner Ray Farnsworth . “We have six units, but I would like it to be 30.”

Sheridan employees, which include hotel staff as well as workers from Chop House, Historic Bar, Roof and Phoenix Bean, number nearly 150.

That’s a lot of employees trying to retain.

“It’s a nightmare,” Farnsworth admitted, citing the pandemic for making an already difficult situation worse. “I’ve worked hard over the years, but this is the hardest year I’ve ever worked and it’s the same for all of Telluride’s businesses. We are all short of staff.

Farnsworth said he was engaged in new efforts to find more housing options for Sheridan employees.

“We are looking for available land that might make sense, but everything is so expensive,” he said. “We have our eyes and ears open for the opportunities. Like Chad, we are open to the means to acquire more housing.

Ajax Cleaning owner Lionel Starr based his business in the Ilium industrial park.

“A few years ago, I bought the land next to my office and my shop,” Starr explained. “In 2019, I built a duplex, two units with two bedrooms each. I can accommodate a family in each, a total of four employees and their children. An industrial park might not seem like the perfect place to live, but for my guys, who often work late at night, it’s much more desirable than commuting from out of town.

Starr added that he feels “extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to create accommodations for my employees. I wish I could build 10 more of these units, but there’s no way I can afford to.

Starr praised the town of Telluride for recent initiatives to create more affordable housing and said he hoped the initiatives would include “more Shandoka-like developments, large complexes capable of accommodating our workforce. at affordable rental rates “.

In the meantime, however, he lamented the impact of the housing crisis on local businesses.

“If I could, I would be able to provide long-term stable housing for all of my employees and that would solve a lot of the issues I face as a small business owner in Telluride,” Starr noted. “If someone loses their home, they often have to leave town because there is simply nothing available. When this happens, I lose an employee and my ability to manage my accounts. “

He added, “I turned down a lot of jobs or asked people to wait weeks before I could put them in for cleaning. It’s because I don’t have enough help. It is extremely difficult to find employees at the moment, and this is in large part due to the housing shortage.

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