Stressed man covering face while moving outColorado’s residents may enjoy living in our beautiful state, but they are increasingly concerned with their ability to afford to do so, according to the results of Pulse: The Colorado Health Foundation’s poll of people living in Colorado. In fact, this year’s poll revealed that the cost of living and housing affordability dominate the list of concerns Coloradans have about the state and the four top issues Coloradans are worried about relate to increasing costs and housing by a clear margin. The main headlines of this year’s poll include: 

Increasing living costs and housing are impacting every demographic in every corner of the state.

Asked to describe in an open-ended question and in their own words, the most important issue facing Colorado right now, respondents provided a Top 5 list that all reached double-digit response levels:

  1. Cost of Living/Inflation 16%
  2. Housing Affordability 15%
  3. Government/Politics 13%
  4. Homelessness 10%
  5. Public Safety/Crime 10%

Reinforcing these concerns, when asked to rank a series of specific problems facing Colorado, all four of the top issues relate to increasing costs and housing. Respondents put “the rising cost of living” (85%) and “the cost of housing” (82%) top of the list, saying the problems are extremely serious or very serious. 

  • Concerns about the cost of living are 8% higher for renters, 6% higher for Latinos and 4% higher for people living on low incomes. 
  • Concerns about the cost of housing are 16% higher for Native Americans (98% total) and 11% higher for people living on low incomes and renters.

Since 2020, the cost of housing as an extreme or very serious problem has risen from 67% to 82%, 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.

COVID-19 concerns nearly erased.

Coloradans’ concerns over Coronavirus/COVID-19 and the health pandemic, which took center stage in the early years of the Pulse Poll (2020 and 2021), have been erased. In 2023, less than one percent of respondents cited the pandemic as a concern), and instead Coloradans’ top concerns are now laser-focused on two key factors that dominate the worries and daily choices of the state’s residents.

Housing concerns are impacting day-to-day decisions with negative impacts, particularly for those living on low incomes.

Significant portions of the population fear they could lose their home or are making tough decisions to be able to afford their housing.

  • 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. This worry jumps to 49% of Native Americans and renters, 47% of African American and Black respondents, and 36% of people living on low incomes.

Far too many are experiencing unfair treatment based on race or ethnicity.

While concerns about housing are widespread, Coloradans’ actual experiences with our state’s housing market suggest that some groups are navigating other challenges in addition to soaring costs when trying to find a place to live. About one in four Coloradans trying to rent or purchase a place to live have experienced unfair treatment, either personally or with someone they know, as a result of their race or ethnicity. This is true for six in 10 Native Americans, nearly half of African Americans, and nearly four in 10 Latinos.

The high cost of living is touching all aspects of Coloradans’ lives.

  • About 40% of Coloradans say they are “just getting by financially,” including more than one in 10 describing themselves as “really struggling.” Those really struggling financially include 27% of Native Americans, 20% of renters, 19% of African Americans, as well as 18% of Latino respondents.

Despite these headlines, Coloradans see a potential path forward for policymakers to address these concerns with real solutions. 

Addressing the cost of housing.

To address the rising cost of housing, respondents shared confidence in policy solutions that help people stay in their homes by:

  • Reducing property taxes for people on low or fixed incomes” (80% view this as effective, consistent across party identification).
  • Ensuring landlords can’t raise rents too quickly on current tenants (75% view this as effective).
  • Increasing investment in programs that prevent people from becoming homeless (68% view this as effective).
  • Making it more difficult to evict tenants who have not violated their lease (67% view this as effective). 

Respondents also believe in policies that could increase the availability of affordable housing by:

  • Changing zoning laws to make it easier to build more housing close to job and transportation hubs (70% view this as effective).
  • Requiring developers to build housing for people with lower income levels (68% view this as effective).
  • Speeding up permitting and inspection processes for developers building housing for low-income people (68% view this as effective). 

Addressing the cost of living.

Asked to weigh in on the most effective policies that could address the rising cost of living, respondents demonstrated confidence in making it easier for people living on low incomes to enroll in programs that can help them afford necessities like food and health care. Seventy-four percent of respondents believe this would be effective, with 44% saying it would be very effective.

  • Increasing tax credits to people living on low incomes follows quickly after, with 70% saying it would be effective in addressing the rising cost of living. 
  • Another 68% say government investments could effectively stimulate the economy and create better-paying jobs.
  • And 63% say that raising taxes on people making over $500,000 to cover services like housing, health care, and education would be effective.

These solutions enjoy majority confidence across demographics, geographies, and party affiliations. The only exception relates to raising taxes on folks making over $500,000, which only 34% of Republicans believe to be effective. However, a majority (58%) of people making over $150k annually do think it would be effective.

The Colorado Health Foundation is committed to transparency, including access to the full results of Pulse. These resources are available in both English and Spanish and include:

  • Questionnaire with topline results (English Spanish)
  • Cross-tabs with data on how different sub-groups answered each question (English | Spanish)
  • Presentation deck with easy-to-read charts and graphs (English | Spanish coming soon)

WATCH: Pulse 2023 Briefing - Housing and the Cost of Living Crisis: A Troubling View of Colorado’s Horizon