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Need for Affordable Housing in Colorado Dwarfs Available Units


The need for affordable housing continues to outgrow supply in Colorado and across the United States, according to a new report.For every 100 of Colorado's lowest-income households, there are just 30 affordable rentals. A disproportionate number of the state's lowest-paid workers are people of color, and nearly three in four households are forced to spend more than half their income on housing.

Cathy Alderman, chief communications and public policy officer for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said these families are at increasing risk of losing their homes.

"A two-individual household would need to be making between $50,000 and $75,000 in order to afford a rental in Colorado," she said, "and that's much higher than our current minimum wage would allow if somebody was working 40 hours a week."

Cities across Colorado have taken some steps to grow their inventory of affordable housing. In 2015, Denver passed the Affordable Housing Fund, which Alderman said has helped get more affordable housing into the pipeline. However, she added that the city also repealed a zoning measure requiring developers to make a certain percentage of residential units affordable.

Alderman worried that not-for-profit developers will not be able to develop enough middle- to low-income housing on their own to meet current and future demands. She said for-profit companies need to do their part to fill in the affordable-housing gap. Because there currently are no incentives for developers to shift away from building high-end units, Alderman said state lawmakers may need to step in.

"Clearly if there is a gap of 70 units for every 100 needed, the market is not working," she said. "Developers are not bringing those units on line because there is not as much profit."

In the short term, she said, it's also critical to increase funding for vouchers so the state's lowest-paid workers can stay housed in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. Nationally, researchers found a shortage of 6.8 million affordable and available rentals for households considered to be extremely low-income, with incomes at or below the poverty level or 30% of their area median income.