Colorado Workers Squeezed by Housing Crisis

In Colorado’s booming resort towns, even sleeping in your car has become an unaffordable luxury.

1 minute read

August 11, 2022, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Aerial view of Salida, Colorado with mountains in background

Joseph Kreiss / Salida, Colorado

“Colorado’s widening kibosh on sleeping in vehicles adds to festering pain beneath the state’s recreation-oriented tourism and house-buying economic fervor,” writes Bruce Finley in the Denver Post. With homes selling for ten times as much as the local median income, workers who staff the popular lodging, restaurants, and other services that drive local economies find it increasingly hard to afford housing and must resort to sleeping in their cars. “The squeeze has intensified as the internet enables expanding commercial use of housing for short-term rentals and a COVID-19-era influx of well-to-do people fleeing dense-packed cities drives up prices.”

“Across mountainous western Colorado, cars as cocoons for sleep and sanity serve as last-resort shelters helping hundreds who provide services stay around.” To help provide a safe space for people living in cars, cities such as Salida have created designated parking zones that come with rules—and fees of as much as $300 a month. “These new accommodations have emerged as government-backed efforts to retain workers and also keep parking spaces free for visitors and well-to-do newcomers.” However, the town heavily enforces a ban on sleeping in cars on public property.

The programs have been criticized as a ‘band-aid’ solution to a much bigger problem, which will only be compounded by cold weather and an influx of winter workers.

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