Unaffordable Housing in Colorado: Who’s Affected?

Unaffordable housing in Colorado has become as commonplace as the Rocky Mountains, but it is greatly impacting the ability for many families to achieve economic mobility.

The need for affordable housing is felt throughout the state: An opportunity survey conducted by the Bell shows Coloradans consistently rank unaffordable housing as one of the top factors preventing them from getting ahead economically.

As the number of people moving to Colorado is outpacing the growth in available housing units, especially along the Front Range, many families struggle to find viable options. In 2015, Colorado built 26,000 housing units, but this still lags behind growing household formations of 33,000 to 35,000 per year. The increasing number of households in the state and dearth of construction for multi-family units is part of the reason for unaffordable housing in Colorado.

Out of the top 20 metropolitan areas with the highest rate of house price appreciation in the country, three are in Colorado: Fort Collins, Denver, and Boulder. All Colorado metro areas are experiencing price appreciation above the national average, particularly those along the Front Range, but renters also face high costs. The Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) reports nearly half of all Colorado renters are considered cost burdened, with an additional 24 percent severely cost burdened.

When the price of housing far exceeds people’s ability to pay, it can result in dire consequences. A University of Denver report says, “A recent influx of new residents to Colorado combined with a steady decline of available low-income and affordable housing has contributed to a 600 percent increase in the homeless population from the late 1990s to 2010.”

For more information on how unaffordable housing in Colorado particularly impacts certain groups, creating further inequities in our state, read the housing section in our Guide to Economic Mobility.