Steamboat Springs The Washington Post’s Wonkblog published a map Tuesday that shows the hourly wage needed to afford a typical one-bedroom unit in each county across the nation.
Using the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s fair-market rent for Routt County, it would take an hourly wage of $16.85 to afford a one-bedroom unit and utilities, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which supplied the analysis for the map.
For Routt County’s breakdown, $16.85 per hour would allow someone to afford a monthly rent of $876 while spending just less than 30 percent of their income, which comes out to $35,048 per year.
But, as the Wonkblog post acknowledged, this scenario doesn’t apply to everyone. Some people will find housing in cheaper areas, others will work far more than 40-hour weeks and others still will rent a single room in a larger unit.
The Colorado Division of Housing completes a multi-family housing survey in the first and third quarters of every year that includes Steamboat Springs. This survey shows rental rates by what each person can expect to spend rather than the price for a unit type.
The average rent for Steamboat Springs was $726.48 in the most recent published survey, which was conducted in September 2013.
Using the same method as the National Low Income Housing Coalition, someone living in Steamboat would have to make about $13.99 per hour to afford $726.48 in monthly rent and utilities.
The most recent American Community Survey data for Steamboat show that the median earnings was $31,663 in 2012, which is about $15.22 per hour. In Routt County, the median earnings was slightly higher, at $33,827.
However, earnings vary widely by industry, and about 16 percent of the employees in Routt County work in what the Census Bureau defines as “arts, entertainment, and recreation, and accommodation and food services,” making it the largest industry segment in the county.
The median earnings for that industry grouping was $28,768 in 2012, according to the American Community Survey, which translates to $13.83 per hour.
That hourly wage falls in line with state Division of Housing’s average rental rates but remains lower than HUD’s fair-market rate for a one-bedroom unit.
These are median wages, which means half the employees in the categories above are making less than these amounts.
Residents at the lower end of the wage distribution will be under greater stress to obtain housing and likely will dedicate a greater share of their income toward it than what’s considered affordable.
About 37 percent of renters in Routt County spend more than 35 percent of their income on housing.
Steamboat economist Scott Ford said that people in that situation will start to partner up to spread out the fixed costs of housing.
There’s a sizable segment of renters who are between ages 19 and 25 and working jobs in the lodging, recreation or food service sector, he said, and “they will do to a great degree whatever it takes to be here.”
Having multiple housemates and roommates might not be an ideal long-term solution, but there are those who stick it out and stay.
“They find better jobs,” Ford said. “They fall in love. Something happens. They make that decision that this where they want to be.”
To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz