By Mike Rosso
It’s a pattern repeated throughout Colorado; a small town gets “discovered,” thus becoming a magnet for retirees, lone eagles, trust funders and those simply looking for a quiet place in the mountains.
Naturally, these folks need someplace to live, so the demand for housing goes up. But what if the supply does not keep up with the demand? This usually leads to inflated prices for real estate and rental properties.Where does this leave the lower- to middle-class folks? The ones making small-town wages but suddenly looking at big-city prices for housing? If you are one of the lucky ones, you either already own your own home, have a very generous landlord, or made a killing selling your home in Denver – one of the hottest markets in the country – and had enough left over to buy outright that cute in-town Victorian or semi-rural ranchette in Salida, Buena Vista, Crestone, Westcliffe, Leadville or Gunnison.
Unfortunately, for the others, the skyrocketing cost of housing leaves few options; either work more hours and cut back on expenses or leave town altogether. Wages are not increasing in Salida to keep up with rising housing costs, so what are the solutions?
Obviously, the market is going to determine prices, and the more desirable the community, the greater the cost. The current local city council majority and mayor don’t appear very concerned about the issue, unlike previous office holders, who investigated possible city-sponsored affordable housing solutions such as setting aside a portion of the Vandaveer property for such use. Now, it seems, that option is quickly fading in favor of disposing of that property as quickly and cheaply as possible.
In lieu of any city-sponsored action, it is left to private business owners to offer solutions. One builder has broken ground on a 19-unit rental facility in Salida which will be offered at between 80 and 100 Average Medium Income. If successful, it may lead other developers to follow suit, but that is only speculation.
Meanwhile, the town of Buena Vista has received a nearly $1 million tax credit from the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority to build a 48-unit affordable housing project. Both of these projects will help to ease some of the affordable housing problem, but at the current rate of growth in Chaffee County, they are just a drop in the bucket.
We offer a firsthand look at the difficulty in finding housing from the perspective of a single mom in Salida on page 8. John Mattingly also weighs in on the issue in his column. We’ll be talking more about this in the near future as the crunch continues.