The moratorium on evictions is over, which means the affordable housing conundrum returns. In the last ten years, Colorado saw its population jump 21% to 5.7 million. Urban areas and tourist destinations have seen the most significant increases, with rents going way up as housing stock for low-income households (making under $45,000) go down.
While rents and property values are up, 14% of the state’s population earns a minimum wage of $12.32 or close to it. Unfortunately, the average two-bedroom apartment requires the residents to make at least $27.50 if they want to allot no more than the recommended maximum of 30% of their total income for housing costs.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 150,000 households spend 50% (which HUD considers cost-burdened) or more of their income on housing as of January 2020. Predictions put that number as high as 360,000 households at the end of 2020.
The great divide
The difference between average housing costs and earnings is an estimated $15.18, a huge gap. The National Low Income Housing Coalition believes that about half of low-income renters fall into the cost-burdened category, and it gets worse as the income level goes down. Other necessities like eating healthy food, medical care and education can suddenly become out of reach without assistance.
This problem has grown over time, with the pandemic making matters much worse. So, it is no surprise that the state has set up a housing task force funded by $400 million from the American Rescue Plan to address this instability.
Seeing it from both sides
Housing is a cornerstone of society, and we need affordable housing for those in lower-income brackets. However, this is a free-market economy where landlords have the right to earn market value on their rental properties. While there are no easy solutions, the state and federal housing authorities will need to address this issue in the coming days to enhance the long-term livability of the state for people in all income brackets.
Moving from the big picture to the small, it is also essential that landlords and tenants look after their interests. They may be able to find common ground without waiting for the slow-moving machinations of government.