It is not news to anyone that the Front Range is in the midst of a housing crisis and this has serious consequences for domestic violence survivors.
Colorado rents grew 5.5% in 2014, while nationally, rents increased a mere 2.7% on average. Boulder and Broomfield Counties are increasing as much as twice as fast as the national average, with rents in Longmont rising nearly 11% last year. Broomfield rents increased an average of 5.9%, with a one bed room apartment costing approximately $1,300 a month. Although the City of Boulder saw a relatively low rate of increase, Boulder is still the most expensive city in Colorado for renters, with a 2-bedroom apartment costing on average $1,800 per month.
Access to safe, stable, affordable housing is critical to the long-term safety and stability of survivors and their children. Domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness among women and children in our community and a lack of affordable housing options is regularly reported by survivors as a primary barrier to escaping the abuse.
Colorado ranks among the lowest for housing affordability (41st) and more than half of the state’s renters are considered housing cost burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing. The epic floods of September 2013, which damaged or destroyed more than 1,200 homes, combined with the robust Colorado economy, have recalibrated the Boulder County housing market, resulting in rental vacancy rates at .001%. SPAN’s advocates do an amazing job, supporting survivors as they apply for every possible resource, pursue every available opportunity. But the reality is, it’s just not that simple.
Increased need and limited availability of affordable housing in Boulder County has resulted in waitlists of three to six years. And receiving a housing voucher is no guarantee of success. In the post-flood housing market, even when a survivor is successful in securing a housing voucher they are vying against other renters who do not have the complicated histories and steep logistical challenges survivors of violence bring with them. In 2014 two-thirds of the individuals or families exiting SPAN’s shelter had applied to housing programs like Boulder County’s Family Self Sufficiency Program, the Moving to Work initiative, or the Housing Stability Program, yet few found housing. 32% of the families that were approved for housing support were unable to actually secure housing before their voucher expired.
SPAN is committed to addressing this issue. We have long standing collaborative relationships with Boulder County Housing Authority and Boulder Housing Partners and are able to support a small number of survivors with housing units that are dedicated to survivors of violence. With support from SPAN’s Transitional Services Advocate and Community Resources Specialist, 51 adults and children have accessed affordable housing in 2015, but the need is far greater. SPAN is also applying for federal funding to support expanded Transitional Housing for survivors and is a stakeholder in the community conversations taking place about this critical issue.
Everybody deserves a safe, stable place to call home, and having that safety and stability can make a life-changing difference for survivors.
Photo credit: woodleywonderworks