By Lynne Vickerstaff
Special to The SUN
Pagosa Housing Partners (PHP), a newly formed nonprofit organization that is promoting workforce housing and affordable housing solutions in Archuleta County, held its first CommunityTalk this past Monday, Aug. 26, featuring a panel discussion at the Community United Methodist Church on the topic of health and housing.
PHP plans to host monthly community discussions touching on the various aspects of housing needs in Pagosa Springs. Compelling evidence exists that the community is in the midst of a housing crisis, where homes are unaffordable to workers to rent or purchase, which in turn is making it more difficult for many employers to find qualified employees.
Last year, the Town of Pagosa Springs contracted with PHP to conduct a survey of employees and retirees in the county to establish the areas of greatest need. The survey was constructed around the assumption that many Archuleta County residents are struggling with both housing costs and housing availability. That assumption was supported by the 2017 Archuleta County Housing Needs Study cooperatively commissioned by the town and county.
National housing organizations typically recommend that individuals and families should not pay more than 30 percent of their household income (before taxes) for housing costs, which includes mortgage or rent, utilities, taxes and insurance.
Based on the respondents of PHP survey, more than half of Archuleta County households are paying more than the recommended 30 percent on housing. In the housing assistance business, these households are referred to as “cost-burdened.” But the stress is not evenly distributed among the various income levels.
None of the surveyed Archuleta County households making more than $5,000 a month are “cost burdened.” But of the 81 surveyed households earning less than $2,000 a month, 14 of them had no housing — they were living in tents, cars or staying with friends or relatives. That was 17 percent of the survey respondents. If this PHP survey represents an accurate cross-section of Archuleta County — and that’s admittedly a big “if” — then nearly one in five of our lowest-paid employees have no permanent housing.
Additional survey data revealed that — assuming the data reflects the whole community — our overall community has about 2,400 low-income “cost-burdened” households and an additional 1,000 middle-class families who are likewise paying too much for their housing.
The survey results provided community feedback, along with state statistics, and input from other town and county organizations to create a plan of action — the “Roadmap to Affordable Housing” — prepared by PHP, which was accepted and adopted by the town council earlier this year. PHP is now engaged in educational and organizing activities, as well as the development of a home-sharing program called RoomConnect. This program offers free background checks for homeowners with vacant bedrooms that they might wish to rent out to local workers as one part of a local housing solution.
You can view the Roadmap and the community survey results, and other housing information, at the PHP website, pagosahousingpartners.org.
By Lynne Vickerstaff