We partnered with United for a New Economy and 9to5 Colorado to research how the housing instability crisis in Colorado impacts the health of low- and moderate-income renters, and developed policy recommendations to repeal the statewide ban on rent stabilization policies in support of public health and equity.
Strong communities need stable, safe, and affordable housing that supports the health and well-being of the people and families who live there. But across the country, landlords have raised rents rapidly while incomes for low- and middle-income renters have stagnated, leaving many renters struggling to meet basic needs and facing ongoing housing instability. This is especially true in Colorado, where lawmakers have not taken meaningful action to address the rental affordability crisis. And due to structural racism and discrimination in housing and employment, Black and Latinx renters are disproportionately harmed.
We conducted the majority of research for this report before the COVID-19 pandemic, which has further magnified and revealed the persistent housing insecurity that many renters already experience. Rent stabilization policies are one key opportunity for state and local governments to provide immediate stability for renters, and to support healthy communities in the long term.
In this report, we present findings about how rising rents and housing instability affect renters’ health in Colorado, including the results of a survey with 212 low- and moderate-income renters across the state. Half of the renters we surveyed reported that their landlords had raised the rent within the past 2 years. The average increase was 9%, or $113 per month, while the largest was $450 per month, a 38% increase.
The problem: Rising rents in Colorado harm health and exacerbate racial inequities
Families have less money for basic needs
When landlords raise rents without limits, tenants have to make hard tradeoffs. When housing isn’t affordable, people are more likely to cut back on basic needs that are critical for health, like food, healthcare, and education. Among the renters we surveyed, nearly 3 out of 4 reported spending less on food in order to pay rent.
Rising rents lead to housing instability and chronic stress
Unaffordable housing is closely linked to housing instability, including evictions, which can have cascading effects on health, employment, children’s educational attainment, and future housing opportunities. Renters who responded to our survey experienced ongoing stress and worry about housing instability, especially if their landlord had raised the rent recently. This can contribute to chronic stress, which in turn can cause or worsen chronic health conditions like depression, heart disease, and diabetes. Involuntary or frequent moves can also negatively impact children’s mental health and their educational attainment — which is a major driver of adult health outcomes.
Lack of stable and affordable housing contributes to racial injustice
Historical and ongoing housing discrimination and income inequities mean that Black and Latinx households are more likely to rent their homes and to spend huge portions of their incomes on rent, which further exacerbates racial inequities. In Colorado, 45% of White renter households are rent burdened, compared with 56% of Black households and 59% of Latinx households. Increasing housing stability for renters is crucial for building a more racially just state.
The solution: Allow cities to adopt policies that support renter health by removing Colorado’s ban on rent stabilization
Rent stabilization limits how much landlords can increase rent each year, and well-designed policies contribute to just housing systems that support healthy communities. But in Colorado, state lawmakers prevent cities and towns from adopting rent stabilization policies that work for their local context, through a state preemption (or ban) adopted in 1981. Repealing this ban would shift power and agency to tenants, and strengthen community health. It would also give cities the freedom to pass policies that support renters’ health based on what makes sense in their localities.
Recommendations for rent stabilization
- Repeal Colorado’s statewide ban on rent stabilization.
- Create strong and equitable rent stabilization policies at the municipal or county level
Cities and counties can ensure that rent stabilization is effective and supports overall housing stability and health through:
- Complementary policies like just-cause eviction laws, limits on condominium conversions, and proactive code enforcement
- Covering as many renters as possible by including single family and mobile homes
- Strong public oversight
- Incorporating rent stabilization into a comprehensive housing strategy to preserve and create new affordable housing