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  • Writer's pictureMarsha for Commissioner

Affordable Housing: A Key Ingredient for Quality of Life

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

Coming up! Town Hall on Affordable Housing: 7/30/20, 5-6 p.m.

Take the Survey Monkey survey to share ideas/solutions:

Affordable housing is front and center in my campaign. In a listening session I did with young people, they said “...we don’t even put buying a home here on our dream list because it’s not realistic or attainable." They also told me that many married couples in La Plata County have to have a room mate or commute one hour/one way to jobs to make living here work. We must do more if we care about families, seniors and the workforce.

A lack of affordable housing puts a lot of stress on county residents and it depresses economic growth because it chips away at our ability to grow good jobs and businesses. It also means:

People pay too much for housing and thus, have less money to pay for goods and services, or health care coverage or emergencies let alone saving for a rainy day.

• Our county too-often loses families and those in the workforce to other communities where housing is more attainable.

• There is more commuting required which causes more traffic and pollution, and means less quality time with loved ones.

Social problems can sometimes arise due to the stress of housing costs.

Luminen Apartments, Dgo = housing for those in need

Because there are so many varying needs and preferences for housing, the availability of many different types is a good strategy including single-family homes, multi-family units, apartments, manufactured homes, tiny homes and more. No matter the type of housing, a standard figure is that paying 30% or less for your housing costs/month is considered "affordable."

A few statistics that stand out...

· About 47% of families in La Plata County lack the qualifying income to buy a home (Region 9 Economic Development District).

· People here are 9% more cost burdened that the national average. “Cost burdened” means that your household is spending more than 30% of your income on housing expense.

· The monthly rent in Durango for a one bedroom is $950 and the annual income necessary to pay that rent is $38,000/year; for Bayfield, it's $737 and $29,480; and Ignacio it is $650 and $26,000.For a family of four in Durango, the hourly wage to pay for housing needs to be $31.74/hr.; Bayfield $31.49/hr.; and Ignacio $28.05/hr.

To read more, go here:

Housing in Southwest Colorado, 2019 Update, Region 9 Economic Development District

Creativity in housing = good!

Quoting the report:

"Housing issues, namely availability and affordability, are hot topics across the region as communities struggle to provide stable, affordable housing opportunities for their workers, families, and seniors. Housing stability has been defined as having a choice over when and under what circumstances a household wants to move. Families and individuals have “housing stability” when they continuously live in housing that is affordable and adequately meets their needs for safety. Stable housing provides a platform where households can attend to the needs of children, pursue educational and career goals, take care of their sick and elderly, become members of a neighborhood, and conduct other personal and social activities. Stable housing can be met through various avenues, such as affordable rental housing or attainable home ownership. Consistent, stable, affordable housing is a key part of financial security."

A lot to Applaud

More senior housing is coming on-line in Three Springs.

Let me be clear: placing affordable housing front and center in my platform does not mean I criticize what is already being done such as work by:

-Community Development Corporation

-Local Governments including La Plata County, the City of Durango & Towns of Ignacio and Bayfield and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe

-Habit for Humanity

-Homes Fund

-Housing Solutions for the Southwest

-NINA (Neighbors in Need of Assistance)

-PATH (Planning and Action Team on Homelessness)

-Regional Housing Alliance

-Volunteers of America

  • and Federal and State partners and others.

I applaud what these groups are doing because it's not easy and they are the ones in the trenches. This said, I am calling for more collaboration and impact.

Solutions & Where Next?

Various kinds of housing are needed & desired by people.

First, why is this such a complicated problem? Housing is expensive here because:

· There is a gap between wages and the cost of housing. This is a problem nation-wide, not just here.

· Land is expensive especially in and near the regional center of Durango. Also, where land might be available, there isn’t always infrastructure (i.e., water, sewer & roads).

· Many say -- and this is where details and dialogue are important -- that too much regulation of land use or building mean housing prices become out of reach.

· Good stuff is happening but there isn’t necessarily a county-wide, coordinated approach nor a way to measure success.

· Obtaining state and federal funding is difficult and very competitive especially when COVID-19 is impacting budgets.

Tamarin Square provides housing for many including seniors.

My solutions are to:

1) I call for the creation of county-wide affordable housing plan to be completed in early 2022 if not earlier. Scroll to the end for more details.

2) Increase and improve the tool kit emphasizing public-private partnerships, more investments and creative solutions.

3) Develop a clear vision and data for what is specifically needed for: low income housing, and then affordable, attainable and workforce housing. And, then, develop measurement tools and communicate progress to the tax payers and public.

4) Improve cooperation between all the entities working on housing for a bigger impact.

5) Engage those who need housing about solutions.

Finally, a broad question to think on: How do we link housing to very important goals such as economic development, energy efficiency, back-yard gardens for food security, broad-band internet, transit and child care?

This is a very high priority for me and I will use my proven leadership skills in all ways possible when I'm serving as your next County Commissioner. We can do better so your kids and their kids have a chance at making it here. I hope to hear from you.

  • Marsha


Marsha Porter-Norton

Democrat for La Plata County Commissioner

Proven leadership for healthy communities and a strong economy

Engage, Donate and Volunteer here:

Contact me here: or 970-403-5680

Facebook: Marsha for Commissioner@MPNfortheWIN

Vote your Values. Vote for Marsha.


What would an affordable housing plan for La Plata County need to do...

• Answer: Who needs to be involved in the plan? Governments, nonprofits, home builders, developers, economic development groups, people who need housing and YOU!

•Determine: Can we agree on a common set of facts & needs for various types of housing including: low income, affordable housing, attainable and work force housing? Where is housing needed and who needs it? What does success for this plan "look like."

• List: What is already happening here and in other similar-sized communities? What can we learn that might work here?

• Determine: What are barriers or challenges to getting more affordable housing built or secured in the county? What are the solutions to overcoming and/or addressing these challenges?

Can we expand the "tool kit" and if so, what and how? Have we exhausted all the resources from the state or federal levels? Should we increase public investment? What is the role of the private sector? Is there land to be donated? What about the Regional Housing Authority (i.e. its role)?

What is the cost of various action items, timing, first steps and next steps?

What is needed to get this affordable housing plan implemented and continue the collaborative work?


Please tell me what you think! Take the Survey Monkey

survey to share ideas/solutions: Note: all pictures are from the Google Images except for the one in Three Springs and my own image.

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