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A large rent sign is posted on Dallas St. and E. Montview Blvd. advertising vacancies in an apartment building on January 27, 2021 in Aurora. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Most Colorado voters think their state has an affordable housing problem and want the government to intervene to solve it, a new poll from Magellan Strategies shows. 

The online survey of 508 registered Colorado voters between March 30 and April 2 revealed increasing support for policy initiatives to combat what more and more people describe as harder-to-find affordable housing. The poll had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

The poll also shows voters approve of specific policy solutions like rent control and requiring developers to set aside some new units to increase affordable housing. 

Skyrocketing home prices and fewer housing options led David Flaherty, founder and CEO of Magellan Strategies in Louisville, to conduct the poll.

“Five years on, we are in a much different place now,” Flaherty said. 

Most people said affordable housing is hard to come by

Many people polled described affordable housing as a basic necessity — including a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom — that should be accessible to everyone. Several defined affordability as a certain percentage of their income.

“Affordable housing to me is housing that is less than one third of after-tax income,” a Denver woman said.

The survey showed a general frustration that affordable housing is no longer available. Seventy-four percent said finding affordable housing in their community was a “big” or “somewhat of a” problem. Another 8% said it’s not too much of a problem while 11% said it’s not a problem at all.

“That’s a good 10 points higher than what we would normally see,” Flaherty said of the percentage of people who think affordable housing is a big problem.. 

And 73% said the cost of housing in their community is unaffordable, compared to 25% who said it’s affordable.

“My 24-year old is paying $1,645 monthly. He is making minimum wage, has a college degree and cannot afford a thing in Denver,” another Denver woman said. “Nor can we save money. I’m still supporting him.”

Many are open to several policy solutions

Flaherty said public opinion has shifted rapidly. Higher housing costs amid the coronavirus pandemic have opened many Coloradans up to policy-based solutions led by the state and local governments, even if they’re not sure what they’ll look like.

“Some of these new builds should cap their pricing,” an El Paso County woman said. “I really don’t know honestly.”

Several also pointed to an influx of newcomers to the state as the source of higher prices.

“People are moving here too quickly with deeper pockets, so it pushes the people who work for your community and hospitals at lower pay out of the market,” a Denver woman said.  

Flaherty said that although many people polled were unfamiliar with regulatory tools beyond rent control, many backed alternatives that were offered in subsequent questions.

  • 69% support requiring developers to devote a percentage of units in new housing developments as affordable housing, while 26% oppose it
  • 69% support legislation that would require their community to have at least 20% of available housing be affordable for those who make less than $50,000 annually, while 27% oppose it
  • 68% support rent control, while 24% oppose it

Still, some voters surveyed said that intervention or regulation is unnecessary. 

“The market dictates housing costs,” a Jefferson County man said. “Housing is available for all in various areas across Colorado.”

Support looks relatively broad even amid some opposition

Regardless of homeownership status or political affiliation, in most cases a majority of those surveyed agreed that the government should get more involved.

About 86% of renters and 50% of homeowners said that the local government should do more when it comes to ensuring affordable housing in their community. Broken down by party affiliation, 83% of Democrats, 69% of unaffiliated voters and a plurality of 49% of Republicans think local governments should do more to increase affordable housing.

Support for government intervention fell across the board when people were asked about specific affordable housing proposals, like rent control and reserving a portion of property or a number of units in new residential projects as affordable. 

Among Democrats and renters, a majority still favors these three policy proposals. However, opposition builds among homeowners, unaffiliated voters and Republicans. 

Still, at least 40% of homeowners, Independents and Republicans strongly support or somewhat support all of these policies. 

“The cost of housing has gone through the roof, and I think the survey is picking up a lot of that sentiment,” Flaherty said. “Government intervention in this area is definitely welcome, where before there was apprehension.”

Zach Bright

Email: Twitter: @zachbright_