This article was originally published in The Daily Sentinel on December 18, 2022.
As you travel throughout the valley, you may notice new residential construction taking shape. We’re seeing new units coming to Fruita and added development near Las Colonias and Dos Rios and throughout Grand Junction. The housing supply in Mesa County has been a concern for many years, and we’re excited to see these new developments working to close this gap.
Throughout the country, communities are facing housing shortages. When individuals cannot find housing, their quality of life suffers, and they are forced to look at alternatives, such as migrating outside the area. When the local workforce cannot find adequate housing, the entire community suffers.
Attainable housing is a key component in long-term economic development and stability strategies. For truly healthy and vibrant communities to exist, there must be adequate housing opportunities for each stage in the life cycle and varying income levels. From young families just starting their careers to retirees, the availability of housing directly supports our local economy and contributes to our community’s culture.
In 2021, the City of Grand Junction released the Grand Valley Housing Needs Assessment. According to this assessment, the region has experienced a positive net migration of around 1,500 residents per year. This study found that the city has gained significantly more renters than homeowners, and these renters within the middle class are facing more barriers to entry in the homeownership market due to rising prices. The study also found a shortage of 3,736 units in Mesa County for renters who earn less than $25,000 per year. From rising home prices to the limited supply of units available for purchase or rent, it is becoming increasingly difficult for residents across income levels to find places to live.
The issue of affordable housing has been a heated topic at times. On the November ballot, the City of Grand Junction proposed two issues to combat affordable housing, including a 1% increase in lodging tax and an 8% increase in short-term rental tax. While these ballot measures did not pass, the supply of affordable housing in Mesa County remains a concern. Regardless of where you stand on the topic, there is a strong connection between housing and economic development. Increased housing means greater tax generation contributing to improved infrastructure, job creation and retention, and a healthier working class.
The development of new housing creates both immediate and long-term economic impacts. New developments stimulate our economy immediately through associated construction fees, taxes on the builder’s profits, and employee income taxes related to the project. Additionally, greater numbers of homeownership contribute to increased residents paying property taxes. These additional funds can then contribute to improved city infrastructure, making the community an attractive and enjoyable place to live.
Moreover, the availability of attainable housing aids in attracting and keeping businesses. Employers will be at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting and retaining qualified workers without a sufficient housing supply. Communities throughout Colorado, such as Vail, have already exemplified this issue as employees struggle to find housing. This has put some of their community’s employers at risk as real estate prices continue to increase, and the supply of short-term rentals has pushed the working class out. As a result, employers such as Vail Resorts have been forced to look at developing their own employee housing to help combat the issue.
While Mesa County’s cost of living trails behind metro areas on the front range, there is still a significant gap in available housing, which our community is currently working to fill. These new units will help tremendously with growing our overall inventory, improving quality of life, and attracting and retaining talent.
Our team has been fortunate to meet a variety of individuals who have recently relocated to the Grand Junction area. As we discuss where they are from, what they do, and why they love the Grand Junction area, we always try to ask one question: Why did you choose our community?
The answers vary based on their priorities; however, the consistent theme in most of these conversations is affordability. Access to consistent, adequate, and stable housing not only strengthens our current workforce but has a direct impact on our emerging workforce and the attraction of talent to our community. If we do not continue to act on affordable housing initiatives, we could potentially drive our workforce out of the area due to the high cost of living. As we continue to explore the future of economic and workforce development, attainable and affordable housing must be part of the conversation.
For more information on life in the Grand Junction area, please visit: www.gjep.org/live-here