Colorado’s high housing prices will cut rental assistance in half

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DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado will get paid as much as Minnesota or Wisconsin from HEROES Act rental assistance, but needs nearly twice as much to cover Coloradans’ rent.

Coloradans will have a unique issue with the HEROES Act rental assistance, whatever form it ends up taking. Simply put, our rent costs more than our share of the U.S. population should.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the $3 trillion appropriations bill Monday night, which included $900 billion worth of COVID-19 relief measures, among them a $25 billion carveout for rental assistance.

Each state government will get a share of that money in proportion to its share of the U.S. population. Colorado, with 1.74% of the U.S. population, will get $383 million. State and local governments will then use it how they see fit.

It is unknown yet how Gov. Jared Polis’ administration will apportion its rental assistance share, but Colorado’s expense will be a challenge. Housing prices mushroomed in the 2010s and are currently as expensive as they have ever been.

Front Range metro areas bring the statewide median rental price to $1,271, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. City prices are higher. Zillow data shows an average of $1,767 per month in Denver.

Of the country’s 30 cities with the most expensive average rent, five of them are in Colorado. Only California has more cities on this list.

This expense means Colorado’s rental assistance won’t go as far as other states that get the same amount based on population.

Census data recorded 2,464,164 total housing units in July 2019 in Colorado, of which 65.2% were owner-occupied. This leaves 857,529 rental units of some kind for a grand total of $1,089,919,450.52.

This is the aggregate monthly rent, and the HEROES Act would not touch it.

If every Colorado renter got an equal share of HEROES Act rent assistance, it would still only pay for 10 days of the average rent, or $449 apiece. Even combining this rental assistance with the $600 in direct payments due every American falls short of the average Colorado rent check.

This isn’t the case nationally. More often than not, the percentage of population will match the aggregate monthly rent.

For most other states, the aggregate rent follows along with the percentage of population. California has the nation’s largest share of population with 11.91%, and Wyoming has the smallest with 0.17%. California also has the largest aggregate monthly rent with $9.76 billion, and Wyoming the smallest with $70.9 million.

Colorado, however, is both more expensive and more renter-heavy than average, which means its aggregate monthly rent is higher.

Colorado will receive the same amount from the HEROES Act as Minnesota and Wisconsin. But it needs $300,000,000 and $400,000,000 more, respectively, to cover the aggregate monthly rent, just slightly less than Maryland.

Colorado’s aggregate monthly rent more closely matches coastal or Mid-Atlantic states, even though its population more closely matches interior states.

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