Improving Housing, Improves Health
by Victoria Martinez & Maricela Lucas
“Housing affects health. The affordability, stability, quality, and accessibility of housing all play a role in individuals’ and communities’ health. The connection is clear, but it’s a complicated undertaking to build a system that addresses needs and inequities in both housing and health.”-Housing Equity Report
Housing in Colorado
Did you know that 60% of Coloradans believe that their community is in a housing crisis.
In order for Coloradans to live a healthy and equitable life, no more than 30% of their income earned should be going towards paying for housing. However, given the expensive and rising housing market across the state, this is not the case for the majority of Coloradans.
According to the Health Equity report, due to the high housing costs in Colorado, residents are having to choose between paying for their rent or mortgage, over meeting their own basic needs. Oftentimes, this means that Colorado residents are having to choose to have a roof over their heads while overlooking their medical or mental health needs.
Housing in the San Luis Valley
It is concerning that the average sale price of homes has risen 66% between 2008-2020.
Housing in the San Luis Valley (SLV) is very competitive and expensive. Not only are the number of available rentals below what is needed, but the number of homes for sale has significantly declined in recent years.
Even when a rental becomes available, it gets snatched up quickly, sometimes even before it gets advertised, due to long waiting lists with the rental companies. The lack of adequate and/or affordable housing leads to SLV residents being homeless. Once without a home many are not able to qualify for government assistance that would help fulfill their other basic needs, as they do not have a permanent address. There are too many people in our community that live everyday in chronic stress, due to the fear of eviction, or having to live with family members.
Too many of our healthcare workers leave because they can’t afford to live nearby or because they have to commute an hour or more to get to Alamosa. The same is true for many other essential workers.
In the SLV, the average income for a single household or an individual renting does not appropriately correlate to current rental costs. More than 50% of SLV renters have incomes below $28,400, meaning that in order to afford housing, the rent would have to be below $710 monthly. However, most rentals in the SLV go for up to $1,300 depending on whether it is an apartment or a single-family home, and how many bedrooms.
Consider the following statistic, the average rent for an apartment in the SLV in 2009 was $577, currently the average rent for an apartment is $753. The current average is more than what 50% of what SLV residents can afford, this is a huge inequity.
In the SLV rent is so expensive due to the huge demand for rentals, but lack of vacant rentals available. According to the SLV Housing Needs Assessment, from late 2020 to early 2021, it was revealed that only 66 properties out of the approximately 63,000 in the entire Valley were available for rent. Therefore, less than 1% of 63,000 rentals are available.
Alamosa is in the lead in rental units available both for single-family homes (21) and apartments (30) compared to Del Norte, Monte Vista, La Jara, Fortgarland and Sanford- all of which had less than 10 in both categories when the assessment was released..
The median listing price for homes in Alamosa is relatively high compared to the median income of its residents. For example, the median price of homes for sale in Alamosa in 2020 was $235,000. An income of $57,526 annually would be needed in order to actually afford to buy a home at this price.This trend is also illustrated within other SLV counties.
In Conejos county, the median listing price of homes for sale is $232,500 which correlates to a median income of over $56,000, whereas in Rio Grande county the median listing price of homes for sale are over $252,500, therefore residents need a median income of over $61,000 to qualify to buy a home.
Where are prospective local home buyers who have very low median incomes left on the home ownership spectrum? Well, many times these prospective home buyers have no choice but to go for homes listed at cheaper prices. However, most “homes listed under $200,000 present serious challenges: they may be extremely small, have serious deferred maintenance, and/or [may] lack water, septic, heating, foundations, or other elements that would make them consistent with current building codes.” Not only that, but local prospective home buyers are having to deal with being out-bid by other buyers, often investors outside the SLV, paying in cash.
Housing in Alamosa
Alamosa has a tight housing market because it is trying to meet the needs of its special populations- Seniors, people living with disabilities, veterans, homeless, agricultural workers, and students.
Health Equity in Housing
Health Equity means everyone has the opportunity to live a fair and healthy life without facing social and/or environmental obstacles.
In Alamosa, there is a huge housing health inequity. Many of our residents are not able to find adequate housing for various reasons- whether it is because the qualifications set by rental agencies and/or landlords are too restrictive, rent is unrealistic for the average income-earning household, or simply there are not enough rentals available.
Someone does not need to be homeless to be experiencing health inequity. For example, not having a stable home every night and having to couch surf, or being behind on a rent payment and facing eviction all add to people’s stress and reduce their mental health.
People who experience chronic homelessness live 30 years less, on average than other Americans. We also know that 40% of those who are homeless are disabled. In addition, ⅓ of those who are homeless are families with children.
People who can not afford a place to live are often forced to make difficult decisions about providing food, healthcare, or housing.
Help HOPE in Alamosa to create more housing stability, housing access, and housing affordability. Visit our website to learn more at www.hopealamosa.com