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Chaffee Housing Authority’s Updated Housing Needs Assessment Reveals the Reality of the Local Housing Crisis 

Not that the number is unexpected, but it is sobering to realize the effort it will take to provide housing for our county’s workforce over the next five years. According to the 2022 Housing Needs Assessment (HNA), recently adopted by the Chaffee Housing Authority, to stabilize the Chaffee County workforce and keep up with future housing demands, 1,105 new homes are needed over the next five years.

Of the 1,105 housing units required, 435 units are needed now just to catch up with latent demand, and 670 units are needed through 2027 to address job growth and retirements.

It has been six years since the 2016 housing needs assessment, that revealed a growing gap in the number of housing units available for the county’s workforce and the county’s needs. The 2022 HNA offers new data on the state of Chaffee County’s rental and ownership home markets, projected job growth, and housing production goals for each jurisdiction in Chaffee County.

The production goals offer targets for new construction price points, home size, and whether the need should address ownership or renter demand. A snapshot of the findings from the housing assessment reveals the growing gap;

  • The average home price in Chaffee County increased 41 percent between 2020 and 2022; average rents have increased about 43 percent since 2016.
  • Presently, home ownership is out of reach for 91 percent of county households.
  • During the study period (June – July 2022), the least expensive home was listed for $509,000, which requires a household income of about $157,000 (or 238 percent of the Area Median Income) to afford.
  • Almost one in four (23 percent) of the homes in Chaffee County are unoccupied. This means that this housing stock is used for seasonal, recreational, or occasional use; in other words, they are not occupied by full-time residents.

Brutal Rental market

Affordable housing is deeply woven into community issues in the high country. Photo: Salida RV Resort Park

Nearly half of Chaffee County renters meet the definition of “cost-burdened”, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their household income on housing expenses.

During the assessment period, renters earning under $40,000 have few to no publicly listed rental options, in an environment where 79 percent of landlords surveyed say they fill their vacancies by word of mouth.

But current housing production in the county is focused almost exclusively on the owner market. Some 78 percent of the total homes being developed are for purchase.

This is counter to the critical local economy and workforce need for rentals pointed out in the HNA. According to the HNA, nearly 60 percent of housing being constructed in this county should be for the rental market.

The study found that nearly one-third (32 percent) of total households in Chaffee County consists of a single person living alone.  Given this, it would indicate that future residential construction in Chaffee County should produce more homes with a smaller footprint. While the average household size in Chaffee County is 2.2 people, 71 percent of homes sold between 2020-2022 are three and four-bedroom homes.

The Farm at Buena Vista. (Photo Courtesy of Fading West)

The HNA clearly states that the private market will continue to build products that are affordable to buyers earning 160 percent of the Area Median Income or higher ($92,160 for a single person).  For the general workforce, financial assistance and subsidies are needed to cover the gap between what it costs to build and what locals can afford.

The Chaffee Housing Authority’s Strategic Plan addresses this need for financial assistance by proposing to allocate roughly 70 percent of its future revenues to public-private partnerships that construct workforce and senior housing that is accessible for people earning between $46,080 and $92,160. This is the gap area. Workers earning lower incomes can be subsidized through state and federal resources.

The Chaffee Housing Authority’s Strategic Plan and the 2022 Housing Needs Assessment, can be found at https://www.chaffeehousingauthority.org/our-plan

Featured image: The Old Stage Road Rowhouses are an affordable housing option through the Chaffee Housing Trust (Photo Courtesy of CHT)