Nearly 3,000 homeowners netted $32 million during this ski season, a doubling from the previous season, Airbnb says

Jennifer Dahir-Kanehl works 50 hours a week at a Breckenridge restaurant to pay her mortgage. This past winter she and her boyfriend eschewed a roommate, opting instead to rent a spare space through Airbnb, joining the ever-swelling tide of high country homeowners hosting short-term guests.

At the restaurant and at the hotel where her boyfriend works, it’s a struggle to keep employees who can’t find a place to live. Dahir-Kanehl knows she could rent her spare bedroom, with its separate entrance and private bathroom, to a local worker.

“But in my world, why would I have someone paying $700 when I can make $2,200 to $3,000 a month,” she said. “Long-term rentals around here are hard to find and when you do, they want $1,000 per room and no one making $10 an hour can afford that. It’s tough for the town, and it’s going to be way tougher before it gets better.”

Short-term vacation rentals in Colorado ski country are continuing on an explosive trajectory, generating record amounts of income for homeowners and tax revenue for municipalities.

The number of Airbnb guests in Colorado’s resort towns nearly doubled this season over the 2015-16 season, as did the earnings by hosts, revealing the relentless surge of short-term rental business that is vexing community leaders grappling with the emerging impact of the red-hot shared economy.

More than 121,000 visitors booked Airbnb homes in Avon, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Crested Butte, Dillon, Frisco, Keystone, Steamboat Springs, Telluride and Vail for the 2016-17 ski season. About 2,800 homeowners — a majority of them women — netted $32 million from those visitors, a doubling from the previous season, according to statistics provided by Airbnb.

Expedia-owned vacation rental platform HomeAway has seen tremendous growth in the number of homeowners offering their residences to short-term guests, with the number of HomeAway-listing hosts in towns like Avon, Frisco, Steamboat Springs, Telluride and Vail growing anywhere from 74 percent to 261 percent in the last four years.

Along with this growth comes impacts, both good and bad. The good: local homeowners banking more cash and communities harvesting windfall tax revenue as they corral renters into licensing and taxing programs. The bad: neighborhood changes as more homeowners embrace short-term over long-term and the pinched supply of rental housing for local workers as homeowners opt for the more lucrative short-term guests.

But statistics revealing those impacts are fleeting. The source of the housing crisis in the high country cannot be blamed entirely on short-term rentals, said Brian Waldes, the finance director for the town of Breckenridge, a pioneer in regulating short-term rentals.