Colorado is at a crossroads to find solutions to lack of affordability


From the mountains to the prairies, Colorado’s housing crisis is squeezing state residents in ways that make drastic choices an all-too-common part of their cost-of-living calculus.
When The Denver Post put out a call for residents who wanted to talk about the burdens of their housing costs, dozens of people responded.
Extreme lack of affordability, long a problem in the mountains, has made its way into the Front Range, and so, too, have the solutions to address it.
Chief among them is a regulatory tool known as inclusionary zoning.
Combined with other programs, inclusionary zoning has helped boost the supply of affordable homes.
In places like Breckenridge and Aspen affordable units represent upward of 70% of all year-round residences.
Following legislation that cleared away concerns about inclusionary requirements being a form of rent control, Denver undertook the state’s largest inclusionary zoning experiment yet with its Expanding Housing Affordability Ordinance that took effect in 2022.
Part 1: Boulder’s affordable housing approach was once a trailblazer.
Part 2: When mountain towns couldn’t find affordable housing for workers, they started building homes themselves.
Part 3: Westminster wants more affordable housing options, but tradition gets in the wayGet more real estate and business news by signing up for our weekly newsletter, On the Block.

Colorado’s housing crisis is putting a strain on the state’s citizens from the mountains to the plains, forcing them to make difficult decisions that are all too frequently included in their cost-of-living calculations.

A study conducted last year by Up for Growth revealed that Colorado has a shortage of 100,000 homes and apartments, the second worst deficit of any state after California. According to the Common Sense Institute’s homebuyer misery index, stress levels among households in the state’s largest counties have reached all-time highs.

Dozens of people answered The Denver Post’s call for residents willing to discuss the burdens of their housing costs. Accounts like the one of Jodi Lovejoy, a Westminster resident and middle-class earner who is 56 years old and unsure of her ability to retire in the neighborhood she has lived in for so long, are among the stories that are shared.

When he won the town housing lottery and was able to purchase a subsidized condo for $650,000 instead of the $4 million asking price, property manager Matthew Owens in Snowmass Village was prepared to move his young family out of state.

Profoundly exorbitant cost, a persistent issue in the mountains, has extended into the Front Range, as have the remedies to tackle it.

The most important of these is an inclusionary zoning regulation. Developers of market-rate residential properties are required to reserve a specific portion of their units—typically 20 percent—for affordable housing.

Inclusionary zoning has increased the supply of reasonably priced homes when combined with other initiatives. Upwards of 70% of all year-round homes are affordable units in places like Breckenridge and Aspen. Even so, it is insufficient. Hundreds of units are being constructed by local governments on their own.

Denver launched the state’s largest inclusionary zoning experiment to date with its Expanding Housing Affordability Ordinance, which went into effect in 2022, after legislation allayed worries that inclusionary requirements were a kind of rent control. We don’t yet fully know how it will affect the market, for better or worse.

The discussion about density, resource distribution, and whether a community’s identity should change to accommodate young adults and lower-wage workers who are being priced out is still central to the debate in Westminster and many other parts of Colorado.

The Denver Post examines in three stories what communities in the mountains and along the Front Range are doing to address the shortage of affordable housing, a problem that is highly visible to a wide range of people, including governors, young parents, and retirees. Polis, Jared.

Part1: Boulder once pioneered the affordable housing movement. Denver is now catching up.

Part 2: Mountain towns started constructing their own homes when they were unable to locate worker housing that was affordable.

Part 3: Westminster is in need of more reasonably priced housing options, but custom stands in the way.

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