Many Latino Coloradans struggle to afford housing, new poll finds

More than a third of Latino voters in Colorado say that, at best, they can barely afford where they live, according to a new survey released Wednesday that found broad economic anxiety among the state’s largest minority group.

Respondents to the annual Colorado Latino Policy Agenda poll said that addressing the cost of living and improving wages were their top priorities for both federal and state policymakers, along with concerns about gun violence and homelessness.

The poll found broad support for progressive housing policy proposals, like just-cause eviction protections, as legislators and Gov. Jared Polis brace for a return to housing policy debates in the coming months.

Though state leaders have defended the work they’ve undertaken thus far to improve housing here, the survey found that nearly 80% of respondents said they had seen little to no improvement in the availability of affordable housing in their areas.

A third of Latinos said their economic situation has worsened this year, roughly even with the number who said their status had improved. In all, 26% of respondents said they could barely afford where they live. Another 8% said they couldn’t afford it at all. As a result, researchers said, concerns about homelessness increased, topping education or immigration issues.

“When we think about the overall financial strain on Latino families across the state of Colorado, one thing that jumps out of the survey is, unfortunately, a large segment of the population are really feeling a housing crunch and not being able to afford their housing, whether it’s rent or mortgage,” Gabriel Sanchez, who led the poll for BSP Research, said in a call with reporters Wednesday.

The poll was conducted with 1,600 registered Latino voters across the state in July. It was co-led by Voces Unidas and the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, or COLOR. Its margin of error was 2.4%. According to Census data, Latinos make up more than 22% of Colorado’s population.

The results match with other polling and surveys of Coloradans, who report housing and the cost of living here as top-line issues as the state emerges from the pandemic, inflation cools and the housing crisis expands to include rising eviction filings. In a separate report released in July, nearly half of the state’s renters said they were anxious about losing their housing because of increasing rent.

As polls and surveys showing housing anxiety pile up, state and local policymakers continue to grapple with a path forward. State legislators earlier this year passed a handful of new renter protection bills, but fell short of the sweeping aspirations laid out both by progressive lawmakers, who wanted more intervention to protect tenants, and Polis, who sought to reshape the state’s zoning laws. Those fights are set to reignite in early 2024, when the legislature reconvenes.

In results released Wednesday, 41% of Latino respondents said they either rented or lived with someone who did. Two-thirds of those renters said their monthly rent had increased in the past year, with the largest share reporting it had gone up between $100 and $199.

The results also indicate that Latinos were not feeling the benefits of the state’s recent efforts around housing, said Alex Sánchez, the president and CEO of Voces Unidas.

The findings speak speak to “why, within the Latino community, we still very much are in crisis in housing, and we need solutions that are not just going to be good for the urban setting but also for rural settings, also for working families.”

Beyond underscoring the urgency of the housing crisis in the state, the poll showed growing concern about attacks against the Latino or immigrant communities. More than 80% of respondents said they were very or somewhat concerned about a mass shooting targeting those communities. After economic concerns, addressing gun violence and the threat of mass shootings were the top concerns for Latinos who responded to the poll.

Broadly, the results showed more satisfaction and confidence in local leaders and the direction of the state than in federal representatives and the future of the country. Fifty-seven percent of respondents, for instance, said the country was headed in the wrong direction, compared to 35% who said the same about Colorado.

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