Tim and Whitney Johnson moved back to the state to be closer to family but recently found they’d no longer be able to afford to stay.
“Got a notice at the beginning of this month that they were going to be raising our rent by $700 come September,” said Whitney, who waited twelve years to move back home. “I consider myself a native. And you know, I don’t want to leave. I don’t want this to be our reality.”
The parents of three can’t afford a $2,100 rent. So they’re planning to move to Minnesota.
“It’s a lot of money to be throwing away. It’s not an investment in anything. It’s just to get by,” Tim said.
The Johnson’s aren’t alone. Denver rents are now at an all-time high at more than $1,300. One in four Colorado renters spend more than half their household income on housing.
A new affordable housing project that broke ground on 71st Avenue and Federal Boulevard will make a small dent in that problem.
“We felt it really important to start with the deeply affordable units. So we’re actually targeting folks that are actually making $10 to $12 an hour,” said Adams County Housing Authority CEO Don May.
The units will go for between $450 and just over $1,000 for people making 30 to 50 percent of the median area income.
“Unfortunately a lot of our federal funds are capped at 80 percent of area median income,” May said.
He's talking about the difficult process of trying to put affordable housing up. It took the collaboration of many agencies, private and public, to make this particular project happen. It’s been in the works for eight years.
“You will see that as we do subsequent phases over here we will have units that are more affordable for working class households and folks that may not qualify for the programs we administer,” May said.
If and when that happens it’ll be too late for the Johnsons, who came to Colorado hoping to save and buy. But they’re leaving without having started a home savings.
“I think we feel backed into a corner. Like we don’t have any other option,” Whitney said. “It’s driving families out. It’s driving hard working families out.”