Many La Plata County residents are being priced out of homeownership despite falling prices in an ailing housing market.
Its one of many conclusions reached in the newest draft of the regions Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy report, which is produced once every five years and is updated every two years.
The document, which includes statistical information such as cost of living and livable wages for the five-county area included in the Region 9 Economic Development District, recently was released with a request for public comment before the report is finalized and adopted in October.
We need more assistance on a bigger level, Heather Erb, a real-estate agent for the Durango Caldwell Banker Heritage House Realtors office, said of the regions longtime affordable-housing concerns.
Erb said reports like these, which are designed to help local, state and federal policymakers identify and address community issues, give her hope that more of the areas residents might someday be homeowners. The information can lead to more development of affordable housing and additional government programs that offer reduced interest rates and down-payment assistance, all things she said will be critical to bridging the divide between the areas low wages and high housing costs.
The report also discusses a range of concerns and goals for the region, from transportation to communication and sustainability. It even looks at where the regions residents are working and where the money in their wallets is coming from.
Its all information that community members, and particularly policymakers, can use to guide the regions future, said Laura Lewis-Marchino, assistant director for Region 9.
Theyre making these decisions about how we grow, Lewis-Marchino said, They make better decisions if they have the best information.
New to this years strategy report are sections about economic drivers and Gov. John Hickenloopers Bottom-Up economic-development plan. The sections were added to address the involved development plans and efforts under way amid a community desire to better understand the interactions between jobs and the building and maintenance of vacation or second homes, though the report looks at all job sectors and economic drivers.
Second homes were linked to 16 percent of the jobs in Archuleta County. In Dolores and La Plata counties, 7 percent of the jobs were attributed to second homes. And 4 percent of the jobs in Montezuma County are driven by second homes. San Juan county wasnt included in that part of the study.
In 2009, the latest year for which economic-driver information was available, the report estimates 32,446 jobs were filled in La Plata county, with 40 percent of them being in the service sector. More than half of the 13,136 service jobs were in fields considered professional, scientific, technical, education, health or social assistance. Government work made up 19 percent of the jobs in the county, and the wholesale and retail trades accounted for 13 percent of the jobs, or 4,236 positions.
Per-capita income for the regions residents were varied, according to the report. La Plata County residents brought in an average $39,769, about $100 more than the national average and a little more than $2,000 shy of the state average. Residents in Archuleta and Dolores counties didnt fare as well with per capita income averaging $29,344 and $31,385, respectively.
Combined, La Plata county residents had $2 billion in income in 2009, with 64 percent of that earned from working. The report said payments to retirees made up more than $286 million, or 14 percent.
That kind of information allows decision-makers to be on top of community trends, Lewis-Marchino said. It can have meaning for things like zoning, land development, housing and transportation.
The report also assesses counties strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. La Plata County has going for it an enjoyable quality of life, relatively low property taxes, strong transportation infrastructure and an educated workforce. But its reliance on gas and oil revenues, low-paying jobs, high housing costs, a lack of affordable commercial land, and inefficient government planning and special district taxing initiatives are working against the county, the report said.
Among the goals named in the plan for economic development and improvement are strategies to encourage private-sector job growth in diverse industries, more efficient government processes for permitting, broadband and other public infrastructure expansions and keeping shopping local.