Study forecasts how bad Roaring Fork Valley’s affordable housing shortage will be by 2027

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Traffic on Highway 82.
File photo


The affordable housing shortage in the Roaring Fork Valley region is expected to get worse in coming years unless something unexpected occurs, according to a new housing needs assessment that looked at conditions in 2001, 2017 and anticipated conditions in 2027.

There is expected to be a deficit of 5,700 units by 2027 for households making less than the Area Median Income.

The current deficit is 700 units for households making 100 to 120 percent of AMI. That is expected to get worse.

The current deficit is 1,200 units for households at 120 to 160 of AMI. That is expected to get worse.

The Roaring Fork Valley region is expected to have a deficit of about 5,700 units of housing affordable for households earning less than the median income by 2027, according to a final draft of a housing needs assessment.

But the region’s blue-collar workers are far from the only ones facing problems finding affordable housing, the study said. There is a “missing middle” in the affordable-housing market that looms as a major problem for the Roaring Fork Valley and Interstate 70 corridor between Eagle and Parachute, the study said.

“[The] troubling trend, as seen across the country is the disappearance of housing affordable to middle income households,” said the Roaring Fork Valley Regional Housing Study.

There was a shortage of about 700 units in 2017 for households making between 100 to 120 percent of Area Median Income and a shortage of 1,200 units for households at 120 to 160 percent of the median income, according to the study. Those gaps are likely to intensify by 2027.

“I think the basic thrust is there’s a pretty dramatic need in all categories of affordable housing.” — David Myler, housing advocate

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported the median household income in Pitkin County was $98,000 in 2017 compared to $89,500 in Eagle County and $70,400 in Garfield County.

People making between 140 and 160 percent of the Area Median Income will feel the greatest pinch over the next decade, the study said. They are priced out of the free market but make too much for many subsidized-housing programs.

The Roaring Fork Valley Regional Housing Study was funded by the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority, Garfield County and Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. It was initiated at the urging of David Myler and Bill Lamont, two midvalley residents with a long history of interest in civic issues. Economic and Planning Systems Inc. and RRC Associates, both with offices in Denver, performed the study.

The 139-page report will be shared with local governments after final revisions are made and a concise summary prepared, Myler said. His hope is that the information is used as part of a regional approach to the affordable-housing problem.

“I think the basic thrust is there’s a pretty dramatic need in all categories of affordable housing,” Myler said.

The study provides an abundance of information about population, jobs and housing changes in the valley and along the Interstate 70 corridor west to Parachute and east to Eagle between 2001 and 2017.

New housing between New Castle and Parachute, as well as Dotsero to Eagle, made a big dent in the housing deficit between 2001 and 2017, the study said. But surging population and job generation are expected to exacerbate the housing shortage once again, according to the study.

The region added 28,000 permanent residents over that time, boosting the population to about 103,000, the study said. More than 10,000 jobs were added over that 16-year period, though current employment still hasn’t bounced back to pre-recession levels. There are about 50,000 jobs in the region now. There were 55,000 in the third quarter of 2008, the study said.

The population and job growth were somewhat offset by construction of 11,900 residential units between 2001-17. More than 60 percent of the construction activity occurred in the New Castle-to-Parachute and Eagle-to-Gypsum areas, according to the study.

“The region’s workers have struggled for decades with the price of housing in the Roaring Fork Valley,” the study said. “That’s the main reason why the region has become so large — i.e. the down valley commute has extended farther and farther away in search of more affordable prices.”

The report showed that Aspen and Snowmass Village continue to generate jobs at a greater rate than affordable housing. The upper valley had a demand for 2,500 affordable-housing units that was not met in 2001, the study said. That grew to about 3,000 units by 2017. In 2027, the unmet demand for affordable housing will grow to between 3,000 and 3,400, the study said.

Aspen and Snowmass Village import an average of 7,500 workers per day. That requires commuters from other towns.

The consultant surveyed households throughout the region to find out commuting patterns, among other things.

“Survey results show that in communities between Snowmass and El Jebel, between 62 percent and 97 percent of respondents have one or more household member working in Aspen,” the study said. “Among Carbondale residents the figure drops to 49 percent, and it then falls off even more sharply among Glenwood Springs (16 percent) and Rifle (8 percent) residents. Nonetheless, a still significant 18 to 20 percent of New Castle and Silt households report one or more persons working in Aspen.”

Glenwood Springs imports about 2,400 workers per day. The other locations within the region provide more workers than they require within, according to the study.

The challenge for easing the affordable-housing shortage is daunting, as illustrated by the study. The affordability gap — the difference between what an average family can afford and the median price of housing — will continue to widen, the study predicted. The gap currently ranges from $116,000 in the Eagle to Gypsum area to $290,000 in Carbondale to $1.4 million in Aspen and Snowmass Village. That’s why middle-class families are finding it increasingly difficult to gain a toehold in the valley.

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