DENVER-More than 121,000 lower-income renters pay more than 30% of their income for rent and utilities, according to a report by the state’s division of housing. Despite dropping rents across the board, it appears incomes–especially for poor people–is dropping even faster, says Tom Hart, director of the housing division.

In order to meet current demand for affordable rental housing, the state needs 36,000 new units annually, he says. During the latest fiscal year, state and local efforts produced 4,154 new affordable rental units, compared with 3,785 units in the previous year, he says.

From 1990 to 2001, the number of new Colorado households increased by 39%, he notes, while the number of housing units added to the state’s supply increased only 21%.

The average apartment vacancy throughout the state has risen to 8.4%, Hart notes, but the vacancy rate for affordable units hovers around 5%.

The average statewide monthly rent is $781 for a two-bedroom apartment. That means a renter needs an annual income of more than $31,000 to afford the average rent, Hart says.

Even in these tough economic times, there needs to be more public-private housing partnerships, Hart says.

“We need to increase the financial and regulatory tools available to continue progress on this community infrastructure problem,” Hart says. “Government at all level can be an effective partner in overcoming the barriers builders face in producing housing with modest prices.

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