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Can New Housing In Colorado Keep Up With An Upcoming Surge In Job Growth?

DENVER (CBS4) - There's been another exciting development in Colorado's job market and more pressure on housing. That's often an unconsidered aspect of growth in the state.

United Airlines' announcement of the hiring of 3,000 workers could draw more new people to a state already trying to figure out a housing crisis.

"I think that our communities all have to ask themselves what the cost is of new jobs to make sure that if we're providing tax incentives or other benefits to create jobs that we are also offsetting that by being socially equitable for the housing opportunities for the residents that we already have living there?" said Kimball Crangle, Colorado Market President for Gorman & Company, a developer of affordable housing.

While it's tough to dislike economic development and job growth, there are a lot of aspects to it.

"New jobs cause more expense increases which is putting a squeeze on our lower wage-earning households," she said.

Recently the Common Sense Institute estimated the state will need to add more than 54,000 homes every year for the next 5 years to meet demand.

"I do think we could reach those numbers. I think it would take a concerted regional effort in the (Denver) metro area to do that," said Jennie Rodgers Vice President and Denver Market Leader for the nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners. "We need to look at all the tools that we have at our fingertips and that means creativity."

They've been thinking about using unused public land or parking lots, higher height limits on transit corridors and housing close with other housing.

She listed, "Allowing for accessory dwelling units, that's small mom and pop, mother-in-law units in the back of the yard. Tandem homes, which are two houses in one lot. Looking at what we require for lot sizes."

In addition, making things go faster for builders, which might cut costs and enable housing to be constructed a lower cost, enabling affordable housing. Other options might include allowing commercial space to convert to residential, which can be a tough choice for communities because retail might bring in more tax revenue. But there is a high vacancy rate coming out of the pandemic.

"Using sites like old malls such as the City of Westminster's doing to redevelop housing. We need to look at land that our local governments own."

More and more people are coming to Colorado not only for jobs, but lifestyle. Tony Ricco is taking an engineering job and moving from New Jersey. He's looking for a property to buy now.

"I was always an outdoors guy. But when I got older, I became more and more into the outdoors, backpacking and all of that."

He sees properties selling quickly.

"I'm looking every day and I find maybe one of so each day and maybe one or so comes off the list... I noticed that the nice places that are not $2 million are going up for sale and they're not on the market very long."

That kind of pressure means downward pressure on lower wage earners. Crangle believes housing should be important infrastructure, just like roads and bridges and internet connectivity.

"Housing is very critical infrastructure for the communities that we're all living in. And when we're adding new jobs in communities on the Front Range, we need to consider who will be taking these jobs? Are they folks that live here already and are we going be benefiting them economically or will be we be importing new residents that will be taking these jobs?" she questioned. "Both are absolutely fine scenarios; we just need to make sure that our communities are considering how to balance jobs with housing."

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