Colorado Futures Center and Keystone Policy Center report: Low share of affordable housing for Colorado teachers

Colorado Futures Center logo
Keystone Policy Center logo

Less than 20% of homes in Colorado are valued at a price that is affordable for teachers earning an average salary, according to a new report released today by the Keystone Policy Center. The report, titled Homeownership for Colorado Teachers: Affording the American Dream, explores the challenges of affordable homeownership for school teachers and other middle-income earners in Colorado.

“Teachers serve as one of the strongest connections between schools, families, and the general community. Unfortunately, they also face a systemic challenge that prices them out of homeownership in many of the communities they serve in across the state,” said Van Schoales, senior policy director at the Keystone Policy Center, who led the research team for this report. “This report provides the data, analysis, and recommendations that can serve as a catalyst for state leaders and communities to come together to build viable pathways to homeownership for teachers and middle-income earners.”

Keystone partnered with the Colorado Futures Center, an economic think tank out of the Colorado State University System, to produce the report, which evaluated statewide public data to define what earnings would be required for a teacher to purchase a home. It then determined the proportion of housing within a school district that would be affordable on the average teacher salary. The report also estimated an affordability threshold—the maximum value of a home that a teacher could purchase—and evaluated the number of units available at or below that threshold. Finally, the report evaluates the relationship between salary and housing affordability; and presents a series of non-exhaustive questions that communities could discuss to address the issue.

Summary of findings

A brief summary of the findings in the report includes:

  • Over the past seven years, average teacher salaries have increased nearly 25%, a rate that was similar to the increase seen in Colorado broadly where average salaries for all workers increased by 23% over the same time frame. However, while 18 school districts pay an average teacher salary at or above the statewide average, 160 districts pay less than that salary.
  • Statewide in 2021, out of nearly 1.9 million homes in the state, less than 20% in total were valued at a price that was at or below the Estimated Affordability Threshold specific to the district.
  • The regions that were least affordable include Mountain, Metro Denver, Northern Colorado, and Colorado Springs area school districts, where over 80% of Colorado’s 54,000 educators live.
  • There is not a strong association between average salaries and districts with more housing affordable at that salary. In fact, there is a slight negative relationship between average salary and local housing affordability at that salary – indicating that housing prices are well out of reach in many communities across the state, even those where teachers are compensated with relatively higher wages.
  • Interest rates significantly impact the affordability of homeownership with far more accessible housing for teachers across the state in the mid-2010s, despite increased house prices and/or the limited average wage growth in many districts.

Keystone also published a set of interactive maps to accompany today’s report that allows a user to explore housing affordability by region or even by individual school district across the state. The Colorado Homeownership Affordability Map provides the average teacher salary for the district as well as allows the user to enter a custom salary to see how the share of affordability in the district changes.

Housing affordability for teachers and middle-income earners is garnering attention across the nation in an era when housing prices and interest rates continue to rise, along with the number of teachers who choose to leave the profession. As one example, cityLAB, the Center for Cities + Schools at UC Berkeley, the Terner Center for Housing Innovation, and the California School Boards Association (CSBA) have collaborated to release an in-depth research report on education workforce housing.

Homeownership for Colorado Teachers: Affording the American Dream is the latest in a series of reports spearheaded by Keystone’s Center for Education evaluating data to help policymakers make analytically informed decisions related to education. Last October, Keystone released its first Colorado’s Missing Year report analyzing COVID-19’s impact on student learning as measured by the state mandated assessments, the Colorado Measures of Academic Standards, and Colorado PSAT and SAT. In March, Keystone followed up that report with Colorado’s Missing Year: Charter School Performance, which explored recent enrollment and academic performance data to examine how charter schools fared relative to the state and other school district managed public schools in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Homeownership for Colorado Teachers: Affording the American Dream can be downloaded here.

About the Colorado Futures Center

The Colorado Futures Center is a 501(c)(3) organization out of the Colorado State University System that is dedicated to research and evaluation that informs fiscal and public policy issues impacting community and state economic health and quality of life.

About Keystone Policy Center

Keystone Policy Center brings together crucial teams of stakeholders who have diverse individual perspectives but recognize a common need to address urgent issues with lasting solutions. For more than 40 years, Keystone has helped leaders move beyond fixed positions toward collaborative, action-oriented approaches to problem-solving. In this age of polarized debate on nearly every major topic in public policy, Keystone offers a refreshing yet proven blueprint for progress.