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When faced with a list of societal ills, ranging from COVID-19 to political divisions, Coloradans who responded to a recent survey ranked the cost of housing as the most worrying.
According to the Colorado Health Foundation’s annual Pulse poll, 82% of respondents thought housing costs represented an “extremely serious” or “very serious” problem. The cost of living was considered an extremely or very serious problem by 73% of respondents, and 72% of respondents thought the same of homelessness.
“It isn’t your imagination — everyone really is talking about housing prices!” Lori Weigel, principal of Republican polling firm New Bridge Strategy, said in a Wednesday statement from the Colorado Health Foundation. “It’s rare to find a concern that’s so widespread. That is translating into a desire to take a fresh look at potentially outdated laws and ensure more affordable housing gets built in our state.”
Weigel’s firm worked with researchers at Democratic polling firm FM3 Research to conduct the Colorado Health Foundation poll. The team surveyed nearly 2,500 adults from across the state about their experiences, priorities and concerns.
Out of those surveyed, 13% said they were “somewhat worried” they might lose their home because they couldn’t afford their monthly rent or mortgage. Another 8% of respondents said they were “very worried” about this.
The survey was conducted between July 27 and Aug. 16 — before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal moratorium on evictions, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The court’s action came on Aug. 26, and the CDC’s moratorium had been scheduled to end in October.
Housing costs in Colorado have increased rapidly over the last several years. In August, Apartment List estimated the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Colorado at $1,595, an 18% increase from August of 2017. The Colorado Springs metro area saw rents increase 32% over the same time frame.
Congress allocated $444 million to Colorado for emergency rental assistance. Colorado lawmakers also allocated $54 million in December towards the state’s emergency housing assistance programs. Local governments have received additional state and federal funding for housing assistance programs.
As of Wednesday, the state’s Department of Local Affairs had distributed $162 million of the emergency funds to 42,175 applicants, according to the department’s online dashboard. Another 1,592 applications for aid, totaling $10.8 million, were under review by DOLA, and 1,716 applications, totaling $9.1 million, were still outstanding.
One in 10 respondents to the Colorado Health Foundation’s poll said they had changed their living arrangements in the last year because they couldn’t afford their rent or mortgage. Three in 4 respondents said they “strongly” or “somewhat” supported “updating laws to prioritize building more affordable housing” in Colorado.
Cost of living ranks high
After the cost of housing, the cost of living was highest on the list of concerns ranked “very” or “extremely” serious by people who responded to the survey. This year, 73% of respondents considered this an extremely or very serious problem, compared with 64% of respondents to last year’s poll, according to a statement from the Colorado Health Foundation.
Black or African American and Hispanic or Latinx respondents were more likely to rate the cost of living as an extremely or very serious problem, with 81% and 83% of people from those respective categories saying as much.
While about half of all people surveyed said their financial situation was about the same as one year ago, 15% called it “somewhat worse” and 10% “much worse.” Another 24% of people said their financial situation had improved.
Nearly a quarter of respondents said they had wages cut or hours reduced at a job in the last year, and 1 in 10 people said they’d been laid off.
“Since the pandemic began, so many of us have had to face challenges we never expected, and Pulse shows us who has been hit hardest,” Karen McNeill-Miller, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation, said in Wednesday’s statement.
McNeill-Miller named women of color, low-income families and laid-off workers as three groups for whom the survey had identified disparities.
Editor’s note: This article first appeared on Colorado Newsline, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: email@example.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.