Affordable Housing in Colorado

Research and experience have both confirmed the role of decent, safe affordable housing as the foundation for vibrant and successful communities that have strong educational, economic development, community development, and healthcare programs. Housing issues affect all segments of the society, from children’s ability to succeed in school, to working class families struggling to pay monthly rent, to business owners trying to retain staff, to seniors, veterans, and those with disabilities consumed with housing costs and unable to focus on their health needs. 

Meanwhile however, the availability of housing options in Colorado is drastically insufficient.  Affordable housing is typically defined as paying no more than 30% of gross income for housing, including utilities; paying more than that is considered "rent burdened households” and paying more than 50% on housing is considered severely cost-burdened.  Yet in 2010, 24% of Colorado renters paid more than 50% of their income on housing and nearly 40% paid more than 30% of their income on housing.

Consider the following additional Colorado statistics:

  • Rental market: 600,000 of the 1.8+ million households in Colorado are renter households.  In 2010, 47% of all renter households were paying 30% more of income toward housing, and of the rent-burdened households, 51% had family incomes of less than $20,000 per year.  Meanwhile, average rents in Colorado’s metropolitan cities have increased in nearly all areas statewide.
  •  Home Ownership: The ratio of median home prices to median household income is considered economically sustainable when it is 2.5:1.  In 2008, this ratio in Colorado was 3.9 to 1 for single-family homes and 2.7 to 1 for condos. As of March 2012, the price-to-income ratio for Denver was 3.85.[5]  Not surprisingly, there is a large mismatch between these figures at the lowest income levels.  Throughout Colorado, as incomes go down, the number of available affordable units falls.  Statewide, there are 1.8 households for every unit affordable to households earning > $10,000 per year, 2.1 households for every unit affordable to households earning >$15,000 per year, and 1.9 households for every unit affordable to households earning >$20,000 per year. 
  • Wages: Though several of Colorado’s largest counties have recently added jobs, compensation is not keeping pace.  Weekly wages have decreased at a much faster pace, decreasing 2.9% on average among the counties included in a recent Colorado analysis, versus 1.7% nationally,[6]  which is then manifested in housing choices.
  • Poverty:  Poverty rates are growing nationally and in Colorado, which has a profound effect on housing options.  In 2010, 17% of Colorado youth were living in poverty, and 33% in Denver where living in poverty at that time.

    Housing Colorado programs address these housing-related statistics in Colorado through professional development, training, and resources.

    2014 NLIHC Out of Reach Study
    The Housing Wage is a familiar figure to housing advocates. Every year for more than 20 years, NLIHC releases Out of Reach, our report on the Housing Wage: the wage one must earn in order to afford a modest rental home in communities across the country. Advocates can use this information to show Members of Congress, state legislators, and local elected officials the great need for affordable housing and its impact on the daily lives of their constituents. Review the below documents to learn more about Colorado's Housing Wage and other information uncovered in this study:

    2012 Housing Facts Updates
    In April 2012, Housing Colorado and The Urban Land Conservancy teamed up with the National Association of Homebuilders and Colorado Association of Homebuilders to produce an exciting new look at the facts. The bottom line? Building and preserving affordable housing produces jobs and boosts statewide and local economies. 
    Executive Summary 
    Statewide Results
    Denver Results

    Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Numbers


    Additional Resources
    American Housing Survey- 2011 Housing Profile: Denver, CO, Issued July 2013


    Source: American Housing Survey Factsheets, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

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