Today, Congressmen Blake Moore (R-UT) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) introduced the Lodging Options Developed for Government Employees (LODGE) Act.
Given the unprecedented interest in our national parks and subsequent management challenges, the LODGE Act will foster innovative public-private partnerships to increase the availability of affordable housing in and around our nation’s parks. This legislation will cut red tape and provide the National Park Service (NPS) with new authorities and increased flexibility to enter into innovative housing partnerships. It will also reduce costs to the taxpayer, provide modern housing for both NPS employees and the private sector to rent, and improve NPS employee morale and the agency’s ability to hire and retain staff. This model is similar to those used successfully by other federal agencies, such as at Falcon Hill Aerospace Research Park at Hill Air Force Base.
“Utah is known for our incredible national parks that attract millions of visitors each year,” said Congressman Blake Moore. “As visitation levels continue to skyrocket, we must pursue creative solutions to add efficiency to our system, lower costs, and serve the needs of our communities. The LODGE Act will do just that by providing the NPS with the tools they need to staff and manage these lands by improving access to housing and addressing recruiting and retention challenges, thus enhancing the overall experience for all who work in and enjoy our national parks.”
“It’s wonderful to see so many visitors to our national parks as we emerge from the pandemic. However, the surge in the amount of people has led to an increase in the amount of staff needed to serve the visitors. Unfortunately, many of our national parks and surrounding areas lack the infrastructure to affordably house our park service employees,” said Rep. Jimmy Panetta. “My LODGE Act would help alleviate the lack of housing by allowing public-private partnerships to provide much needed supply of housing in these high-demand regions. It’s a bipartisan innovative solution that will reduce the cost of employee housing for taxpayers, provide our park service with new and affordable housing options, and help the Park Service retain and hire staff at our national parks.”
Last year, 44 units of the NPS set a record for recreation visits. Utah’s national parks experienced record levels of visitation, with rates up nearly 80% since 2011. While a surge in tourism is beneficial to local economies, it poses major challenges for housing options in national park communities and their neighboring areas, known as gateway communities. In addition to this problem, property owners are using short-term rental services to rent their homes to vacationers rather than leasing them to NPS and private sector service employees. As a result, housing costs in many gateway communities have skyrocketed. The rapidly rising cost of housing is impacting recruitment and retention of both NPS and private sector service employees that rely on available and affordable housing.