La Plata County needs to build 790 dwelling units a year to meet demographic forecasts for population growth, the La Plata County Regional Housing Alliance said in a study released Wednesday.
That rate is more than double the 330 building permits issued in La Plata County last year, the nonprofit agency said.
La Plata County is projected to grow 52 percent during the next 20 years, generating demand for 15,700 new housing units in the two-decade period. The Regional Housing Alliance used data from the Colorado State Demography Office for its forecast.
Karen Iverson, RHA’s executive director, acknowledged it will be difficult to build that many units.
“Our current rate of growth has been somewhat limited by the lack of housing in the county,” she said. “So if housing wasn’t an issue, that might seem like a more realistic (number).”
The RHA report says La Plata County will need 3,770 rural single-family homes, 4,550 urban single-gamily homes, 470 duplex units, 1,260 townhomes, 3,140 multifamily and condo units and 2,510 manufactured or modular homes.
The report says the service sector and tourism industry are projected to add the most new jobs during the next 20 years. The low average wages in those industries will increase demand for smaller single-family homes, townhomes and multifamily residences. It also will increase demand for rentals.
Millennials, meanwhile, will increasingly seek single-family homes as they become more established and their families grow, the report suggests.
The trends suggest Durango’s housing affordability crunch will only worsen, Iverson said.
“We have an extreme affordability issue in the county,” she said. “When we look forward, I don’t see anything to suggest it’s going to get any easier. It’s going to get more extreme.”
During the first quarter of 2015, in-town Durango homes sold for a median price of $425,000, while homes in the county sold for a $342,500 median price.
The city of Durango has formed a Housing Policy Committee to look at housing needs within the city. Iverson said a regional conversation regarding housing needs is also necessary because much of Durango’s workforce lives outside the city.
“The need to solve the problem in a regional dialogue is really important, since we live regionally,” she said.
One indication of the housing crunch? The RHA’s Lumien Apartments project, under construction at 32nd Street and East Animas Village Drive, has a waiting list of 200 for 50 units.
Lumien is projected to open in October.