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High Country News

Solving the West’s housing crisis

We need to care for the priced-out average worker or something is bound to break.

The city of Durango from above. | Michael Reed / CC via Flickr

One hundred and fifteen thousand dollars. That’s what it takes for a down payment to buy an average-priced home in Durango, Colorado. Then an aspiring homeowner must fork out another $2,900 each month, which is more than two-thirds of their household’s paychecks if they make the median income for the metro area.

That’s because the average home in Durango, a town of 17,000 in the southwestern part of the state, is going for nearly $600,000. That’s way out of reach for professors at the local college, Fort Lewis, even if two of them making the median faculty salary were to go in on a house together.

If a college professor can’t afford a home, then how can a local worker find a place to stay without an outside source of income? Certainly not public school teachers, firefighters, cops or journalists. Service workers? Forget about it.

As pandemic-spurred remote work is freeing folks from the office and the cities, they are buying up remote work-centers, aka houses, in places far away from their cubicles. The result is real estate markets blowing up across the West, as well as the nation.

It will take $533,000 to buy an average-price home in Bend, Oregon, and $425,000 in Corvallis — a 23% jump from a couple of years ago. The pattern repeats just about everywhere, with 25- to 35% price increases in nearly every market: Tucson, Flagstaff, Tahoe, Salt Lake City, Durango.

You can’t escape by forgoing homeownership and renting, either. Rentals, if you can find them, are similarly expensive. Boise’s median rent shot up by 23% over the last year, with other mid-sized Western cities seeing similar leaps.

Read more: https://www.hcn.org/articles/opinion-economy-solving-the-wests-housing-crisis



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High Country News

High Country News

Working to inform and inspire people — through in-depth journalism — to act on behalf of the West’s diverse natural and human communities.