Colorado is Not Alone in High Wage and Housing Price Disparity

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Colorado has the 14th-highest wage required to afford what the National Low Income Housing Coalition calls a “modest, two-bedroom apartment,” in its latest report, titled “Out of Reach.” According to the report, to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the state of Colorado, you have to earn at least $21.12 per hour. In Denver, you have to earn $23.60 per hour, according to the report.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition came to this conclusion by calculating what a “fair market rent” is for the state for a non-extravagant, two-bedroom apartment is in each state and what an individual would have to earn per hour working 52 weeks a year and 40 hours a week to be able to pay for such an apartment without paying more than 30% of their wages each month for housing and utilities. The “fair market rent” for a two-bedroom apartment in Colorado is $1098 a month, according to the study.

Of course, if you live in Denver, the rental prices are higher than if you live in the outlying areas, but the good news for moving to Denver is twofold: one, the living wage to afford an apartment in Colorado is actually only 14th in the nation, including Puerto Rico. In Hawaii, for example, you’d have to make over $30 an hour to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment. The price for a modest apartment in Denver is higher than the state average, but due to the recent boom in construction of new properties and further development of new units, rents have actually begun to level off in the city. The second piece of good news for newcomers to Denver is the job market is still strong here. Even after a huge population boom during 2014 and 2015, there are still many jobs in the information technology, healthcare, and construction sectors. So even if you have to pay more than the state average for housing costs to live in Denver, there are more opportunities and rents are actually going down.

Mayor Michael Hancock has started an effort to create a fund for affordable housing over the next decade. Hancock has started to raise property taxes and development fees to help close the gap between housing wages and rental rates in the city as well to lessen the burden not only on low wage earners but also for moderate wage earners in the city. Nationally, the housing wage is $20.30 an hour, still higher than many workers in the country make. This points out what the Hancock administration in Denver already knows: that both wages and government assistance have to increase in value in the coming years to keep up with rental costs and an aging population.

So while we all know by now that the Denver housing market is one of the hottest in the country, there is help on the way for all wage earners and greater opportunities here for workers to improve their wages. With more development and assistance from City Hall, Denver’s expensive housing market is improving for newcomers, and Colorado is not the only state in which housing wages are high.