Housing Needs Assessment
The City of Cortez commissioned a Housing Needs Assessment to understand current housing conditions and provide data to inform solutions to the housing challenges that people in the community are facing. This Assessment takes a comprehensive look at current housing conditions and the factors shaping the housing market. In addition, it provides a forecast of housing needs for the next 5 years, and recommendations for the next steps.
HOUSING TRENDS AND CHALLENGES
Rising Prices and Limited Inventory
Jobs and population have been increasing more quickly than the housing supply in Cortez. With a limited inventory of homes for sale and vacancy under 2% for rental housing, competition is driving up housing prices. These rising prices result in less affordable housing to the local workforce. As home prices and rents appreciate beyond what local wage earners can afford, new and existing homes are being sold to higher-income households both within and from outside the area. As local workers have fewer opportunities to purchase, the competition for rental units also increases. And rising rents are putting additional pressures on households whose incomes have not kept pace with the escalation of housing costs. Rising rents and few housing choices leave households signing leases for amounts above what they can afford. This creates “rent burden” as households are forced to pay a greater percentage of their total income on housing, leaving less for other necessities. Another negative outcome of these price escalations is increasing employers' difficulty recruiting and retaining workers.
Local Employer Recruitment and Retention is a Challenge
Local employers face challenges recruiting and retaining employees because there are few unemployed people in Montezuma County looking for work. Employers seeking to recruit employees from outside Montezuma County compete with employers across the state in a competitive labor market. The local housing market is making recruitment even more challenging. The very low rental vacancy rate (about 1.4%), few homes for sale (2 months of inventory), and rising home prices mean that few homes are available to new employees. Many of those available are too costly given local wages, exacerbating employers’ ability to find and keep employees. Without housing options that are affordable to workers, whether for sale or rent, employers will continue to struggle, and this impacts the local economy. For this reason, increasing the supply and diversity of housing in Cortez is an important component of economic development in the City.
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
The final chapter of this report provides more detailed recommendations on the next steps. To address the housing shortages and gaps identified in this report, we recommend the following:
Continue to Improve Land Use Regulations and Incentives
Update land use codes and the City’s Comprehensive Plan to support community housing goals and residential development. Many recommendations are included in this report, and the City is on the right track with commissioning a code update scheduled to begin in the Summer of 2023. Key recommendations include making processes shorter and more predictable for developers and increasing the types of housing allowed in all districts, including duplexes, townhouses, and multi-family.
Increase the Supply of Housing
More housing is needed across the entire continuum from very affordable rentals to step-up homeownership. A diverse array of tools and strategies will be required to increase production and overcome the gap between what most local households can afford and the current construction cost.
Invest in Partnerships
Strong community partners, and talented developers are already working on housing in Cortez. Support them, and increase their capacity to do more of this vital work going forward. In addition, garnering greater community understanding and support of housing and collaborating with employers is recommended.
There are two proposed strategies related to land. (1) Use land owned by local government or large employers to help catalyze new housing. (2) Invest in completing the infrastructure improvements so that stalled-out subdivisions can be completed.
Preserve and Re-Use Existing Assets
Mobile homes are a major source of housing that is within reach of local households. Ensure that mobile homes remain viable and that parks receive the investments they need in infrastructure and upkeep. Seek opportunities to repurpose existing buildings and underutilized land for housing.
Attract New Funding to the Area
Housing solutions are resource intensive. Cortez should dedicate local funds to catalyze some of the lower-cost recommendations in this report while aggressively pursuing new funding sources from state, federal, and philanthropic sources.