Nearly a quarter of metro Denver renters dedicated half or more of their monthly income toward keeping a roof over their heads last year, according to a new study from Apartment List.
As much attention as that gets, a larger share of households in Grand Junction and Pueblo carried that heavy a burden, despite much lower average rents in those cities.
“There are all of these rural parts of the country where housing costs are low, but there isn’t any economic opportunity,” said Chris Salviati, a housing economist with Apartment List in San Francisco.
Housing advocates consider a household that pays 30 percent to just under half of gross household income toward shelter as “cost-burdened” and those that pay half or more as “severely cost-burdened.”
Apartment List dove into data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to determine how rent burdens compared in the nation’s metro areas and more populated counties.
In metro Denver, 23.8 percent of renting households were severely burdened in 2017, the same as in 2016. Exactly 27 percent met the definition of burdened.
In Colorado Springs, the second largest metro are in Colorado, 24.9 percent of households were severely burdened, while 24.7 percent were burdened.
Nationally, 24.4 percent of renting households were severely burdened and 24.9 percent were burdened.
When households pay such a high percentage of income to cover rent, they have less money available for other important things, such as setting side money for retirement or a child’s college tuition.
On the surface, it might seem that lower rents should translate into lower rates of cost-burdened households. But that isn’t the case.
In metro Pueblo, 30.4 percent of renters are severely burdened, while another 19.2 percent met the definition of burdened. In Grand Junction, 28.5 percent of renters were severely burdened, while 21.2 percent were burdened.
Salviati said the problem for areas with less robust economies is that opportunities to earn higher wages are harder to come by, and there is little new construction to push down rents.
Two of the state’s bigger college towns also had higher burdens than metro Denver, although their higher concentration of low-income students could be skewing the numbers.
Boulder County had just shy of 30 percent in each category, while Fort Collins had 30.9 percent severely burdened and 30.5 percent burdened. In both metros, around six in 10 renters were stretching beyond what is recommended financially.
Greeley had a much lower share of its population severely burdened last year at 20.1 percent, down from 29.1 percent in 2016 during the oil and gas downturn.
More so than any other area in the state, Greeley and surrounding Weld County offer the double play of a strong economy and comparatively affordable housing.
On the whole, rent burdens in Colorado continue to ease as more people find jobs and wages start to increase, the survey showed.