Rental rates in Colorado Springs are increasing at the fastest pace in the country, according to some sources — and that could lead to problems with both business growth and workforce development.
While increasing rates might be good for apartment builders and for landlords, they aren’t so great for people seeking jobs in Colorado Springs. Keeping apartments and single-family homes affordable will attract the right kind of workforce — one that will stay here, raise a family here and get involved in the community.
As prices rise, Millennials might not be able to find places to live because they also are laboring under the highest student loan debt the nation has seen. And if local wages don’t keep up with the rise in housing and food prices, the much-coveted Millennial workforce could leave for less-expensive cities. Combined with little public transportation and flat wage growth, the lack of affordable housing could be the catalyst for many people to leave the city and raise their families in other areas.
We’re not there — yet. While apartment rates increased 11.4 percent in March 2017, compared to February 2017, a two-bedroom apartment averages slightly more than $1,000 a month in Colorado Springs. Compare that to the $1,700 a month in Denver and more than $4,000 in San Francisco, and prices are still fairly reasonable in the Springs.
But that could change if month-over-month rents continue to increase, pushed upward by low inventory, new residents who live here and commute to Denver, and this city’s improved economy.
To maintain the city’s affordability — the Apartment List ranks Colorado Springs 51st in rental expenses compared to Denver’s 15th place — developers should be sure to include a mix of affordable housing, not just luxury apartments. While those are important to the economy, so is housing that allows people to live comfortably on low- to mid-level incomes.
If people are overpaying for their homes, their disposable income goes down and that affects local businesses. There will be less money to buy cars, shop or eat at restaurants. The service economy will suffer.
And if housing takes a disproportionate amount of income, then the unexpected events — a sudden car repair, a medical emergency — could bring with them financial disaster for families. A couple of those unforeseen problems could leave families homeless or at least struggling to recover.
Affordable housing is vital to economic prosperity and maintaining robust employment levels.
And it provides more than just a place to live. Providing affordable housing creates stability in the workforce, allows families to engage in community activities and helps produce a steady, secure workforce for local businesses.
Other cities are creating ways to combat the rise in rental prices — the Springs should consider its options. Building more apartment complexes could be an answer to relieve the demand, but only if those units contain affordable rents.
Affordable housing is an issue that we need to solve now — before rates rise faster than wages increase — leaving the city without the right workforce.