Radiance Blog

Colorado Housing Affordability: Challenges and Solutions

Ensuring that people can access adequate housing has long been a core concern for human service agencies and providers. Stable housing helps people stay healthy, remain connected to the community, and have peace of mind. With the advent of evidence-based approaches, such as Housing First, human service organizations have invested even more resources into this issue.

Yet lately, this topic has become even more urgent throughout Colorado. Increasing housing prices for both renting and buying creates more difficult hurdles. From the Great Plains to the Front Range and on through the Western Slope, communities are experiencing tougher and broader housing challenges. Some of our recent research has helped these communities understand housing challenges to prioritize ways to overcome them.


In a recent survey, we found that the affordable housing situation has gotten worse in most of Colorado’s cities and towns over the past three years. A lack of affordable housing has steadily become a more common challenge for communities since 2012, when the economy began to recover after the Great Recession.

A shortage of accessible housing begets other human service issues. Indeed, most communities in Colorado have had a difficult time recruiting and retaining a workforce due to affordable housing challenges, and many communities have seen local worker commute times increase because of a lack of local affordable housing.

Almost all medium and large cities in Colorado have witnessed a rise in people experiencing homelessness over the past three years. Even though that increase is not entirely caused by a lack of affordable housing, an increase in homeless people does frequently affect local law enforcement and parks and recreation departments, demanding more resources. Homelessness effect on police and parks was true regardless of community size or region in the state.


Our research has found that many communities are rising to meet the challenges of affordable housing. Most midsized to large communities either currently have a housing affordability plan or intend to create one soon; most also have a plan to address homelessness. However, other potential solutions, such as subsidizing workforce housing or creating a dedicated tax, are uncommon. Maybe these solutions, or other innovative ideas, can help communities address their challenges.

If your community is facing these issues, consider conducting a housing needs assessment. Needs assessments can range from simple analysis of existing demographic data to extensive engagements, including hearing from people who are most affected by housing. If you are interested in learning more about how a needs assessment could help you identify housing needs and gaps in your community, give us a call; we are happy to chat.

2 comments on “Colorado Housing Affordability: Challenges and Solutions”

  1. Housing affordability is a growing problem across the United States and notably has presented a number of problems in Colorado recently. In recent years, Colorado has seen a dramatic increase in population and housing affordability is a growing problem which is presenting challenges to the residents such as financial instability and forcing households to move away from their long-established neighborhoods. The rapid growth in Colorado has led to an increased demand for housing and a shortage of affordable housing options for the growing middle-class. According to the U.S Census Bureau, from 2010 to 2017 the state of Colorado has seen the addition of 577,829 new residents which has produced an 11.5% increase in population over seven years (United States Census Bureau, n.d.). Colorado’s housing affordability challenge is first and foremost driven by demand exceeding the availability of homes, and Colorado has not been able to accommodate its population growth. According to Peterson (2016), findings from the U.S Census Bureau suggest that more than 100,000 people made Colorado their permanent residence in 2015 while builders only added 25,000 homes (Peterson, 2016, p.7). Peterson estimates that 40,000 homes would have been necessary to accommodate the addition of new residents in 2015 alone (Peterson, 2016, p.7). In 2013, Denver pioneered the first Transit-oriented Development Fund, and it is proving to be a viable solution in solving the states affordability challenges. The Denver Regional TOD Fund focuses on lending for preserving and developing multifamily affordable rental housing and mixed-use developments that include community facility or nonprofit space such as health clinics, food markets, and child care centers, and the development of existing vacant properties (Edmonds, 2018). Colorado is equipped to address affordable housing issues because state officials, policy makers, developers, advocacy groups and residents alike are aware of the growing shortage of housing that can accommodate the working-class households. The solutions, plans, and policies may take time to progress the affordability outlook, but with statewide cooperation and patience, Colorado’s future can be favorable if the residents can all flourish and benefit from the economic growth.
    Edmonds, L. (2018). Financing the development in transit-oriented development: CDFI case study on the Denver regional TOD fund. Retrieved from https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/98056/financing_the_development_in_transit_oriented_development_0.pdf
    Peterson, E. (2016). Overcoming barriers to affordable housing in Colorado: Creative solutions for developers, public officials, and housing advocates. Denver: Urban Land Institute Colorado. Retrieved from http://colorado.uli.org/wpcontent/uploads/sites/19/2016/10/Overcoming-barriers-to-affordable-ULI-CO-report-930-16.pdf
    United States Census Bureau. (n.d.). Quick facts Colorado. Retrieved October 18, 2018 from https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/co/PST045217 U

  2. Housing in Colorado has definitely been a main issue for concern for Coloradans. Since the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2012, there has been an increase of new residents. Colorado was not prepared for such an increase so fast. World Population shows that in 2012 the population was at 5,186,330 and has since increased to 5,684,203. Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, allowing residents to posses and purchase an ounce of marijuana legally. This along with Colorado’s other great qualities like hiking, skiing, and snowboarding all contribute to the increase in residents. A possible solution would be to take the excess revenue from the taxes of marijuana and applying it towards housing and education, and not solely on education like constructing new schools.
    Colorado Population 2018. World Population Review. Retrieved from:

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