Rising cost of living, housing remain top concerns for Coloradans, poll finds

Cost of living and housing affordability remain top concerns for Coloradans, based on findings from the 4th Annual Pulse Poll commissioned by the Colorado Health Foundation.

Concerns over politics, homelessness and public safety, however, were not far behind. And an open-ended question about top issues of concern for respondents showed that water, climate change and wildfires were of equal concern to the cost of living.

The poll was conducted by two firms working together: liberal-leaning FM3 Research and conservative-leaning New Bridge Strategy.

The Colorado Health Foundation said Monday in a statement that results are consistent with recent polls and analyses that show Denver and cities across Colorado, recently considered some of the most desirable and livable cities in the country, are now falling further down the rankings.

“In the end, the concerns and changes detailed in the 2023 Pulse Poll may provide some insight to the changing face of Colorado in the years ahead,” the Foundation said.

The cost of housing has been a growing concern since 2020, the results showed. 

The survey found housing costs rated as either an extreme or very serious problem rose from 67% to 82% between 2020 and 2023, with 51% of respondents citing it as an extremely serious problem in 2023 compared to just 37% in 2020. Related, the rising cost of living was rated an extremely serious or very serious problem by 85% of those surveyed.

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Responses to concerns about the cost of living, housing and homelessness, as reported by the Colorado Health Foundation in its 4th annual Pulse survey. 

The concerns about housing wasn’t just about finding a home. Respondents also worry about keeping the housing they have or having to rely on family or friends to share the burden.

Nearly 3 in 10 respondents (28%) said they are worried they could lose their home in the coming year because they can’t afford rent or mortgage. That number is up 6% from 2020.

About 15% of respondents have either moved because they couldn’t afford their housing or lived with a roommate, friends, or family when they’d rather not.

For those in Generation Z, the oldest of which are pushing 26 years of age, almost one-third said they have to live with a roommate or a friend to afford rent or mortgage.

Republican pollster Lori Weigel of New Bridge Strategy said: “Looking into the future, 83% of respondents who are parents said they’re worried that their children won’t be able to afford to live in Colorado in the future. That’s something we used to see in terms of economic opportunity in small rural states, but to see parents in every region of the state and at every income level concerned their kids may not have a future here is really stark.”

As to solutions, respondents suggested increasing tax credits for low-income Coloradans to address the cost of living, government investments to stimulate the economy and create better-paying jobs, and raising taxes on high-income earners – those making $500,000 or more annually – and putting those taxes toward housing, health care and education. Respondents in every demographic and political ideology supported the first two, although only 34% of Republicans supported higher taxes on high-income earners, the survey said. 

To address the cost of housing, respondents supported reducing property taxes for people on low or fixed incomes; ensuring landlords can’t raise rents too quickly; investing in programs to prevent homelessness; and making it more difficult to evict tenants who have not violated their leases. That was the subject of a bill in the 2023 General Assembly, but it did not make it to the governor’s desk.

Respondents also supported some of the concepts reviewed by the General Assembly in 2023, such as changing zoning laws to build more housing close to job and transportation hubs; requiring developers to build more affordable housing; and, speeding up permits and inspections for development of affordable housing. 

The survey also found Coloradans expressing concern about two issues in 2023 that weren’t identified as a concern in previous surveys: gun violence and abortion.

The issue that dropped the furthest as a concern was COVID and the pandemic, from the top concern in 2020 to not a concern at all in 2023. 

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Responses to the most important issues facing Coloradans, as reported by the Colorado Health Foundation in its 4th annual Pulse survey.

“COVID19 was not the only contagion that swept through Colorado in the last several years,” said Weigel. “In a three-year span, housing costs have spread from the concern of local workers in mountain resort communities to a top-tier statewide issue. In every region of the state – from the Eastern Plains to the Front Range to the West Slope – and with virtually every single demographic group, the cost of living and cost of housing are the great uniters as the top of their concerns.”

Democratic pollster Dave Metz, president of FM3 Research, added: ““Concerns about the cost of living are not only a source of anxiety for Coloradans today – they are also dimming their hopes for the future. Today, many Coloradans face real challenges – nearly two in five are ‘just getting by financially,’ and more than one-quarter are worried about losing their home because they can’t afford it. But looking toward the future, the view is even darker. Most renters who want to own a home doubt they will ever be able to purchase one in Colorado, and more than four in five parents are worried about whether their children will be able to afford to stay here at all.”

The survey was conducted via telephone and online between April 8 and May 3. Out of the 2,639 adult respondents (18 years or older) 24% identified as Democrats, 21% as Republicans and 43% as independents. The rest either did not identify or were not registered to vote.

The sample population included oversamples of Black/African American, Native American/Indigenous, and Asian-American Coloradans, as well as residents of Pueblo County.

The margin of error was +/- 2.2% at the 95% confidence interval.

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