A new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition drives home the stark reality that minimum wage workers face: Affordable housing, both in Colorado and across the nation, often remains "out of reach."
That’s the theme for the 2018 NLIHC report, released Wednesday, which calculates how many hours an employee earning minimum wage would need to work per week in order to afford an apartment at Fair Market Rent in different parts of the country. The federal government annually determines Fair Market Rents, which serve as estimates of what apartments in a particular area would cost to rent.
According to the report, the average Colorado resident needs to make at least $23.93 per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment, the 11th highest "housing wage" in the United States.
For residents of the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood MSA, that number is even higher: the average renter needs to make $27.27 per hour to afford to rent a two-bedroom without spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent. That translates to an annual income of $56,720. For comparison, the estimated renter median household income in the Denver MSA is $44,639.
Within the state, the housing wage for a two-bedroom in Colorado Springs comes in cheaper at $19.62 per hour. The Boulder metro is slightly more expensive: Workers need to earn $28.10 an hour to swing a two-bedroom there.
The housing wage in Denver pales in comparison to San Francisco, where residents need to make $60.02 an hour to afford a two-bedroom in the city. But Denver is more expensive than the Chicago metro ($22.69), Dallas ($20.71) and Austin, Texas, where a booming residential market has contributed to a housing wage of $24.06 an hour for a two-bedroom.
An average employee in Colorado making the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25 would need to work 94 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom rental, according to the study.
The recently adopted Colorado minimum wage, at $10.20 per hour, outpaces the federal minimum. But an average Colorado employee would still need to work 74 hours per week to afford a modest, one-bedroom rental, according to the report. In the Denver MSA, NLIHC estimates an employee would need to work 85 hours a week at minimum wage to afford such an apartment.
On May 22, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill to extend Colorado’s Affordable Housing Tax Credit (AHTC) program through 2024. The program provides tax credits to developers who build affordable housing units. Earlier that month, a $28 million affordable housing project in Westminster opened its doors.
“As so many Coloradans struggle to afford housing, the state AHTC remains an imperative program to create and sustain affordable rental housing stock in our communities," said Cris White, CHFA executive director and CEO, at the time of the bill’s signing. "Nearly half of the state’s renter population is cost burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their gross annual income on housing costs, demonstrating the importance of resources to support affordable rental housing."
The NLIHC report comes a little more than a month after Redfin, the Seattle-based online real estate company, ranked Denver as the least affordable city for teachers among the nation’s top 28 markets. And on May 23, Redfin reported a net outflow of its Denver users in the first three months of 2018, meaning that more of its users were looking to move out of Denver than were looking to move into the city. The company attributed the outflow to Denver’s rising housing prices.
2018 Largest Denver-Area Property Managers
Ranked by Square feet of space under management in Denver area
Rank Business name Square feet of space under management in Denver area 1 Greystar 19.98 million 2 Cushman & Wakefield 15.03 million 3 Colliers International – Denver 13.10 million View This List