News Leadership Garrett County Grads Offer Intriguing Housing Strategy - Garrett College
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Campus News

June 10th, 2024

Leadership Garrett County grads offer intriguing housing strategy

Class of 2024 took on workforce housing deficit as group project

Leadership Garrett County Class

Photo by John Rudd

The Leadership Garrett County Class of 2024 celebrated their graduation last Thursday at Garrett College. Pictured, left to right, are Connor Norman, Garrett County Government business development specialist; John Groves, Garrett County Government licensing technician; Michael Avona, Garrett County Government warehouse inventory coordinator; Burke Friend, Taylor Made Vacations/Vtrips sales executive; Katey Shadel, former Garrett County Community Action director of asset development; and Leah Knicely, Garrett County Community Action director of marketing communications.

The Leadership Garrett County Class of 2024 did more than learn about leadership – they also provided some.

The six-person cohort took the lead into developing an intriguing potential strategy to deal with Garrett County's shortage of long-term, affordable rental housing. They presented their recommendation – Workforce Housing Initiative: Interim Solution to Long-Term Housing – during last Thursday's graduation event at Garrett College.

"There are some great groups working on long-term solutions, like the Grantsville project," noted Connor Norman, Garrett County Government's business development specialist, referencing the affordable housing project along Route 669. "Our project focused on more actionable, short-term resolutions that can bring people to our community, put them in our businesses, and put their kids in our schools."

Burke Friend, a Taylor Made Vacations/Vtrips sales executive, said the group concluded "we don't need any more houses in Garrett County – we need to utilize the ones we have."

Friend said the current glut in short-term rental properties could be reduced by converting those properties into long-term rentals. This strategy, according to Friend, could actually increase the income currently being realized by homeowners with more modest, sporadically rented short-term properties.

"At the lower end, you have homeowners earning $5,000 to $8,000 annually from their rentals," said Friend, adding Taylor Made has an interest in potentially implementing the group's project. "Those properties could earn $800 to $1500 a month if they were converted to long-term rentals."

John Groves, Garrett County Government licensing technician, noted there are approximately 1,300 licensed short-term rental properties in the county.

"Post-COVID, they're not generating as much income as they were," said Groves. "And they're paying short-term licensing fees and an 8 percent accommodations tax. If they rented those properties for 31 days or longer, they wouldn't have to pay that 8 percent."

Leah Knicely, Garrett County Community Action's marketing communications director, said the Leadership Garrett County cohort investigated a similar program in Breckinridge, Colorado, called "Lease to Locals".

"It's a proven program model – and the funds exist to support this type of program," said Knicely, referencing a number of different grant opportunities.

Katey Shadel, Garrett County Community Action's former asset development director, said local government could support such a program through tax incentives.

"One potential tax incentive could be extending the Homestead Tax Credit to homeowners who are not primary residents of Garrett County who make their property available as a long-term rental," said Shadel.

Michael Avona, Garrett County Government's warehouse inventory coordinator, said the proposal could positively address the county's aging population base.

"Ideas like this could help us retain people – kids graduating high school, college graduates coming back home," said Avona, adding, "We want what's best for our kids."

Paul Edwards, chair of the Garrett County Commissioners and an attendee at Thursday's graduation, said he was "very intrigued" by the proposal.

"There are a lot of details that have to be fleshed out," Edwards told the graduates, "but I'm impressed how you've linked two problems to come up with a potential solution."

Notes: Leadership Garrett County is offered through Garrett College's Continuing Education & Workforce Development Division. For more information, contact Dr. Kimberly Govi, the College's coordinator of professional education (, or 301.387.3084).