Our motivation for conducting this survey was to provide our public sector clients, public policy partners, elected officials, and the media with reliable voter opinion data regarding Colorado housing and land use policies and proposals. These issues have been and will continue to be a top priority for Governor Polis, the state legislature, local governments, and most Colorado residents.
Families and individuals across Colorado want solutions to the problem of finding affordable rental and homeownership opportunities in their communities. Residents overwhelmingly want their local governments to do more to address the problem. Furthermore, they do not think local government affordable housing and land use policies are effective.
However, despite frustrations with their local government being effective, only a small minority of Coloradans embrace the idea of state housing and land use policies overriding local housing and land use policies. Although well-intentioned, many Coloradans are skeptical that state housing and land use policies will be more effective than local housing and land use policies.
Any questions regarding the survey findings and methodology can be directed to Courtney Sievers at CSievers@MagellanStrategies.com or David Flaherty at DFlaherty@MagellanStrategies.com. This survey was paid for by Magellan Strategies.
Magellan Strategies is pleased to present the results of a survey of 779 registered voters in Colorado regarding housing and land use policies. The interviews were conducted from September 5th to 17th, 2023. This survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.51% at the 95 percent confidence interval. The survey data were weighted to be representative of Colorado’s voter registration demographics.
This survey underscores the widespread frustration among many residents of Colorado in their search for available rental and homeownership opportunities. The findings reveal that 56% of all respondents consider this issue to be a big problem. Notably, among respondents with a household income of $75,000 or less, a staggering 71% express the view that it is a big problem.
Delving deeper into the data, it becomes apparent that the availability of rental and homeownership opportunities is a big problem across several demographic subgroups. A substantial 77% of renters, 66% of individuals aged 18-44, and 69% of Democrats say it is a big problem of finding affordable housing. Even among respondents who own their homes, 42% highlight the issue as a big problem. In summary, the findings confirm that affordable housing is a paramount concern in the minds of Coloradans.
Fifty-five percent of respondents express the view that the pace of residential housing growth in their community is perceived as too fast, while 30% consider it to be too slow, and 9% find it just right. Population subgroups where significant majorities perceive housing growth as to fact include Republicans (65%), seniors aged 65 or older (70%), voters residing in the 4th (Eastern Plains) (74%), and 5th (Colorado Springs) (70%) congressional districts. On the other hand, population subgroups with the highest percentage of individuals who believe the growth has been too slow include renters (43%), individuals aged 18-44 (41%), and residents in the 2nd (42%), 3rd (40%), and 6th (39%) congressional districts.
To ensure we measured relevant opinions, respondents were informed affordable housing is defined as housing that did not cost more than 30% of an individual’s gross income. In addition, land use policies are defined as residential zoning regulations and community master plans. Respondents were then asked if their local affordable housing and land use policies were effective and moving in the right direction.
Among all respondents, only 20% said their local government policies were effective and moving in the right direction. Forty-three percent of respondents stated their local land use policies were definitely not effective, and 30% probably not effective. To summarize, seven out of ten Coloradans do not think local land use and zoning policies are effective and headed in the right direction.
The debate over local housing and land use policies being more effective than state housing and land use policies was center stage this past legislative session. So, which level of government do Coloradans trust more to address the problem?
The survey finds that 48% of Coloradans trust their local government to address the problem of affordable housing, compared to 29% trusting the state government. Significant difference of opinion among voter subgroups on this question is between Democratic and Republican voters, with 58% of Republicans trusting local control compared to 34% of Democrats. Furthermore, 54% of all respondents trust the local government more than the state government (28%) to make land use decisions.
One primary insight from this survey is that strong majorities of Coloradans state and local governments to do more to address the problem of affordable housing. Seventy-three percent want their local government to do more, and 67% want the state government to do more. Even among Republican respondents, who are often considered strong advocates for local decision-making, 49% say they want the state government to do more. The bottom line is families and individuals want every government organization to do more to address the problem of affordable housing.
Although a significant majority of respondents want both state and local governments to be doing more about housing, only 26% of respondents think state policies are more effective than local government policies at addressing the problem. This viewpoint is true even among populations that really need help with housing such as renters, residents aged 18 to 44, and households with incomes of $75,000 or less.
The 26% of respondents who believe state housing and land use policies are more effective than local policies were asked to describe the reasons why they believed this. Following are the top five themes that emerged.
NIMBYism and Special Interests: Many respondents expressed that local policies can be influenced by NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) attitudes, special interests, and homeowners who may oppose affordable housing in their neighborhoods. State-level policies are seen as less susceptible to these influences.
Bigger Picture and Equity: State governments are perceived as having a broader view and considering the greater good of the entire state. They can address issues of equity, affordability, and environmental concerns on a larger scale.
Resources and Control: State governments are believed to have more resources and control over policy enforcement. They can allocate funding, establish requirements, and make comprehensive plans.
Consistency and Uniformity: State policies are seen as creating consistency and uniformity across different localities, ensuring that the burden of providing affordable housing is not placed solely on certain communities.
Need for Statewide Solutions: Affordable housing is viewed as a statewide problem, and local policies may not adequately address the scale of the issue. State-level policies are considered necessary to address the problem effectively and fairly.
These themes collectively reflect the perception that state-level intervention is necessary to address the challenges of affordable housing and land use in a comprehensive and equitable manner, given the limitations and potential biases of local policies.
One focal point of the Polis Administration’s state zoning policy proposal put forth in the legislative session would have prevented local governments from limiting or prohibiting the construction of multi-unit housing on residential land that is zoned for single-family housing units. As you may be aware, this proposal was defeated in the state legislature and did not become law.
However, what do Coloradans think of this zoning and land use proposal?
Our survey finds opinions evenly split, with 46% supporting the state land use proposal and 47% opposing it. Not surprisingly, 60% of Republican respondents oppose the proposal, along with 58% of seniors and 56% of homeowners. Support for the proposal is strongest among Democratic voters (68%), renters (59%), voters in the 6th congressional district (60%), and the first congressional district.
Among unaffiliated voters, who constitute a near majority of the state’s voter registration, 51% oppose the proposal, and 40% support it.
The top five themes that emerge from the responses to the question “Please describe the reasons why support this land use proposal?” are:
Affordable Housing and Housing Crisis: Many respondents support the land use proposal because of the pressing need for affordable housing. They recognize that the housing crisis is a critical issue, and this proposal may increase housing availability for people.
Diverse Housing Types and Mixed Housing: Some respondents advocate for a more diverse range of housing types, including multi-family housing, duplexes, and triplexes, to accommodate various lifestyles and income levels. They believe that mixed housing promotes community diversity.
Local and State Government Roles: Several respondents believed that local governments should not have the sole authority to restrict multi-unit housing. They believe state government intervention may be necessary to address the housing crisis effectively.
Community and Social Impact: Some respondents consider the proposal’s potential impact on communities and the broader social landscape. They emphasize the importance of thoughtfully designing and implementing the bid to ensure positive community integration.
Density and Utilization of Space: Some respondents support the proposal because they believe it encourages better land use and utilization of space. They argue that increasing housing density can help address sprawl and promote efficient land use.
These themes reflect the multifaceted reasons behind supporting the land use proposal, including the desire to address housing affordability, provide diverse housing options, and ensure a balanced role for local and state governments in planning.
Do Coloradans agree with the viewpoints among people who oppose a state land use policy prohibiting local governments from restricting or preventing the building of multi-unity housing on residential land zoned for single-family housing? Yes, they overwhelmingly do.
Coloradans overwhelmingly support building multi-family developments in transit cooridors. In addition, three our of four respondents support a land-use policy that would require local government community master plans to have an adequate water source and an affordable housing component.
This survey measured Coloradan’s opinions on thirteen factors that contribute to the problem of affordable housing. The top contributing factors among all respondents included the increase of people moving to Colorado (64% contributing a lot), the impact of inflation on the cost of labor and housing materials (59% contributing a lot), and the increase in short-term rental and investors (48%).
The factors that respondents thought contributed the least to the problem of affordable housing were the changing housing needs among different population subgroups (45% contributes a lot), the residential construction fees, permits, and time for a developer to go through the planning and zoning process (46% contributes a lot), and the cost of insurance for residential developers (48% contributes a lot).
Two thirds of Coloradans think “local control” land use policies should be the priority rather than “state control” when addressing the issue of affordable housing.
Eight out of ten Coloradans agree, and 51% strongly agree with the viewpoint that local communities have a “NIMBY” (not in my backyard) attitude toward multi-unit housing. This finding, in our opinion, underscores the challenge local governments face in building trust among residents that their affordable housing and land use policies are well-intentioned and effective.
Among all respondents, 38% agree and 49% disagree with the viewpoint that restrictive residential zoning and land use polices are the primary reason why Colorado has not been able to address the problem of affordable housing.
Among all respondents, 54% agree with the statement that some residential zoning and land use policies in Colorado have been used to discriminate against minorities and individuals with lower incomes. This sentiment is overwhelming among Democrats (77% agree), individuals who rent their homes (73% agree), women (61% agree), and households with annual incomes of $75,000 or less (66% agree).
This year, the Governor and state legislature passed a law that prohibits local governments from limiting the number of new residential housing developments or units that can be built. Cities that had a policy that restricted residential development based on the number of units included Lakewood, Golden, and Boulder. Among all respondents, 44% support this new law, 47% oppose it, and 9% do not have an opinion.
Do a majority of Coloradans support a rent control policy for their community? Considering the frustration measured in this survey regarding the lack of available rental and homeownership opportunities, it is not surprising the answer is yes. Among all respondents, 60% support a rent control policy in their community, and 40% strongly support it.
Not surprisingly, among respondents who rent their homes, 80% support rent control policies. But there is also measurable support for rent control among Republicans (45%), homeowners (49%), and seniors aged 65 or older (53%). It will be very interesting to see if rental control legislation becomes law in the 2024 legislative session.
This survey utilized an MMS text data collection method to interview registered voters, inviting them to participate in the online survey. The survey data were weighted to be representative of Colorado’s voter registration demographics. The interviews were conducted from September 5th – 17th, 2023. This survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.51% at the 95 percent confidence interval. Any questions about the survey questions and methodology can be directed to Courtney Sievers at CSievers@MagellanStrategies.com or David Flaherty at DFlaherty@MagellanStrategies.com.