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Colorado housing costs are the eighth cheapest in the country / Public News Service

Colorado housing costs are the eighth cheapest in the country / Public News Service

Colorado remains the eighth worst state in the U.S. for housing, according to a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Although minimum wages have been raised at the state and local levels—to $18.29 an hour in Denver—Colorado residents must earn nearly $38 an hour to afford a modest apartment.

Cathy Alderman, communications and policy director for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said it’s clear wages can’t keep pace with rising housing costs.

“Colorado has a very high minimum wage compared to the federal minimum wage and many other states, but we still lag behind when it comes to housing costs,” Alderman emphasized. “We need to think about policies that can reduce housing costs.”

A full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage can only afford $750 in rent per month. A welfare recipient can only afford $294. Boulder, Eagle and Summit counties top the list of the most expensive areas in Colorado. Service workers and other low-wage earners have to commute there for hours every day because they cannot afford housing where they work.

For years, thousands of new housing units have been built along the Front Range, but they are priced more toward hedge funds and other investors than the average working family. Alderman argued that the housing crisis will not be solved by market forces alone.

“There are over 20,000 luxury and market-rate rental apartments in the Denver metropolitan area that are vacant because people can’t afford them,” Alderman noted. “There’s no incentive to lower rent to make it more affordable.”

The federal government stopped investing in housing decades ago, but a housing crisis response bill is currently pending in the U.S. Congress that would create nearly 1.4 million affordable homes and help nearly 300,000 households pay their rent.

Alderman believes the federal government, which has far more revenue streams than state and local governments, has a role to play.

“State and local governments have tried to invest more in housing,” Alderman acknowledged. “But without federal money, they can’t get very far. So I think it’s time for the federal government to look at this as a nationwide crisis, not just a local crisis.”

Disclosure: The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless donates to our fund for coverage of budget policies and priorities, health issues, housing/homelessness and poverty issues. If you would like to help us cover news in the public interest, click here.

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