The generally accepted rule of thumb for housing costs is 30% of your income. Do the math. Where do you fall on the spectrum? If you live in the Denver metro area and are renting, that percentage has been steadily increasing over the last few years. According to Housing Colorado, one out of every four renters in this beautiful state spends more than 50% of their income on rent. So what do housing costs really look like?
The average monthly apartment rent in Denver is $1,315. For this housing to be considered affordable, a Coloradan needs to earn at least $53,000 a year or $25 an hour. However, according to the most recent census data, the median income for Colorado workers is $32,301 a year. This means that half of Coloradans make less than $32,301, and half make more. The result: most employed folks in Colorado don’t make enough to have truly affordable housing.
In addition, vacancy rates are at all time lows. This means that finding an affordable apartment in Denver can seem like an impossible task. The competition for the few affordable units on the market is tough: credit scores have to be near perfect, references have to be stellar, and it’s first come first served. As well, most landlords require application fees and you can expect to dish out multiple fees before you are finally selected. This is a difficult, frustrating, and time-consuming process to go through on top of your normal daily routine.
We work with people every day who are in this situation, but they don’t have the luxury of time. They are spending money they don’t have to stay at a hotel, treading lightly while living with friends or family, or resorting to living in their car. These are the realities of what the housing crisis looks like for people who are displaced by a disaster.
Affordable housing solutions do exist: subsidized housing programs, income qualified housing, roommate and house sharing options, or relocating to a different part of town. And cities are figuring out how to get more affordable housing built while a growing movement is bringing awareness to this issue. However, these options require lengthy application processes, have waitlists, and definitely won’t happen overnight. When time is limited, finding a truly sustainable long term housing option just does not happen. The alternative is paying more rent than you can afford. This can quickly lead to taking on more debt to pay for unexpected expenses you no longer have the extra money for… this is when hardworking folks become part of the system and are no longer financially independent. In some cases, the end result is homelessness.
When Our Front Porch is built, it will be that place where people can buy time to find the right long term housing solution. Rent is set at the pre-disaster amount, security deposits accrue over time, and in house staff works to help identify a better next home. This is where you buy time.
Do you support affordable housing when people need it most?