In a recently released study, Colorado was ranked the eighth least affordable state to live in, further complicating low-income workers’ access to affordable housing.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) found that Colorado had the eighth highest housing wage, which is “an estimate of the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to afford a modest rental home at [the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s] fair market rent (FMR),” as defined by NLIHC.
This means someone would need to work 94 hours a week at minimum wage or work full-time at $32.13 an hour to afford a two-bedroom rental home in Colorado.
Colorado currently has a minimum wage of $13.65.
California had the highest housing wage, and Hawai’i had the second highest.
A worker in California would need to log 109 hours a week at minimum wage or earn $42.25 an hour during full-time employment to afford a two-bedroom rental home. Someone in Hawai’i would have to work 139 hours a week at minimum wage or earn $41.83 an hour full-time to afford a two-bedroom rental home.
Pointing to the NLIHC data, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless announced in a June 14 press release that affordable housing was even more out of reach for most Colorado residents, given Colorado’s housing wage in 2023.
“According to NLIHC, in no state, metropolitan area, or county in the U.S. can a worker earning the federal or prevailing state or local minimum wage afford a modest two-bedroom rental home at fair market rent by working a standard 40-hour work week,” the press release stated.
Cathy Alderman, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless’ Chief Communications and Public Policy Officer, said in the press release that data from the NLIHC study supported the idea that investing in affordable housing is crucial for “those households with the greatest need,” a push the organization has also outlined in a recent study.
“Strategic investments and housing policies that help to … keep low-income households housed are the only way that Colorado can become a state affordable for all … and combat the historic inequities that created this crisis,” Alderman continued.
The press release stated that a Coloradan must work 2.4 full-time jobs “to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in Colorado.”
In a 2017 press release, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless announced that renters would need to earn $21.97 an hour to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment in Colorado. In 2017, Colorado’s minimum wage was $9.30.
The minimum wage in Colorado rose by $4.35 from 2017 to 2023. The hourly wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Colorado rose $10.16 during the same period, an increase of around 46%.
The press release also acknowledged the disproportionate effect that the lack of affordable housing had on marginalized communities. These disparities can be traced to “historical barriers to wealth accumulation” and housing discrimination.
The U.S. Department of The Treasury reported that in the second quarter of 2022, white households had a homeownership rate of 75%, Black households had a 45% rate, Hispanic households had a 48% rate, and non-Hispanic households of any other race had a rate of 57%.
“Regardless of their race and ethnicity, women earn less than their male counterparts and face more difficulty affording rental housing, but this is especially the case for Black and Latina women,” according to the press release. “Coloradans subsisting on social security income, such as those living with disabilities and seniors, can only afford $286 per month in rent—a number entirely out of reach based on Colorado’s rental prices.”