Report: Cost of living, affordable housing, climate change among Boulder County's chief concerns

Jun. 2—In terms of the issues facing Coloradans, Boulder County is primarily concerned about the cost of living, affordable housing, climate change and growth and development.

And its concerns mirror the rest of the state, according to the results of the most recent annual Colorado Health Foundation pulse poll, which is conducted by FM3 Research and New Bridge Strategy. This year, 2,985 Coloradans — 121 of whom reside in Boulder County — participated in the survey.

"Taking the annual pulse of our state's residents is an imperative step in identifying and understanding what they are thinking, feeling and experiencing," Colorado Health Foundation president and CEO Karen McNeill-Miller stated in a news release.

"This research shows us not only what is hitting us hardest but, most importantly, the people being hit the hardest as well," McNeill-Miller added.

The Colorado Health Foundation uses its annual pulse poll to advocate for policies meant to address the issues raised in the results.

When surveyed, 86% of Coloradans considered housing costs to be a serious concern.

In Boulder County specifically, survey participants indicated that the most important issues facing Colorado right now are affordable housing, overpopulation/growth/overdevelopment, cost of living and climate change and other environmental issues.

Affordable housing topped the list with 23% of respondents of county participants ranking it as the most serious issues facing residents of this state.

Housing costs have long been a concern across the state, but perhaps particularly in Boulder County.

According to, an online platform for people buying and selling homes, the median sold home price in Boulder is $1.3 million. That number dips somewhat when moving east. In Longmont, for example, reports a median sold home price of $630,000.

In terms of cost of living, survey respondents in Boulder County reported being most concerned about being able to pay for housing, including making mortgages and rent payments as well as fuel and food.

This is in line with what city officials are seeing, too.

"The survey results from this pulse poll very closely resemble what we hear from our community nonprofit partners who are also serving our community members and from our Older Adult Services and Family ... Services folks directly," Boulder's Deputy Director of Housing and Human Services Elizabeth Crowe said.

Food assistance represents the largest chunk of need within Boulder's Health Equity Fund, which provides grant funding to community organizations and agencies promoting health equity for Boulder residents, Crowe noted.

When people are struggling to afford housing, they're often forced to make challenging decisions about what they must forego in order to make their bills. Sometimes, the trade-off is food or health care.

This was confirmed by the pulse poll: Many Coloradans are forced to choose between housing and other basic needs.

The decisions that must be made are often highly stressful and fraught with anxiety, Crowe said.

"They are hard choices. They can exacerbate the amount of stress and anxiety people have," she said. "There's just this cycle of all these kinds of social determinants of health that can take a huge toll on people's actual health in the process."

The poll results, while confirming much of what city officials already knew about the struggles facing Boulder residents, also confirm that the work they're doing is meaningful, Crowe argued.

For example, in addition to its other affordable housing work, Boulder recently established the Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program that provides rental assistance and free legal guidance to people facing eviction. It was set in motion through a ballot measure, approved by Boulder voters in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furthermore, Boulder is moving ahead on a guaranteed income pilot program, which would use federal coronavirus relief dollars to provide direct cash assistance to low-income residents that can be used to pay for anything — whether food, health care, gas, utility bills or something else.

This program is one the Housing and Human Services department is particularly excited about, given their hope that it will reduce barriers that are often in place when people seek assistance. Such barriers include navigating paperwork, working with numerous nonprofit organizations and regularly establishing a certain level of need.

"That whole process is time consuming and a bit emotionally draining," Director of Housing and Human Services Kurt Firnhaber said.

The issues raised in the Colorado Health Foundation's pulse poll, both locally and at the state level, transcend race, ethnicity and income.

"These are top ranking concerns across racial and ethnic groups and strikingly they're also top concerns across income subgroups," FM3 Research President Dave Metz said in a briefing hosted by the Foundation regarding the housing affordability and cost of living results.

Coloradans with a six-figure household income also indicated that the state's rising costs for living and housing are very serious problems, though they experience less direct need.

"Those more affluent Coloradans are not as affected by the rising cost of living," Metz said. "They aren't having to make as many changes in their lifestyle. But they are equally likely to recognize it's a problem."

The same holds true in Boulder County, where a majority of the respondents reported coming from six-figure income households.

Thirty percent of the poll participants made more than $150,000 in 2021, while 8% made less than $20,000.

Firnhaber acknowledged this general notion as well, albeit in a different way.

"It's a bit of a curse living in the city of Boulder because of how expensive it is," he said. "But I think we're also fortunate to have a community that's decided to tax itself to pay for these programs."

The Health Equity Fund, for example, is funded through the voter-approved sugar sweet beverage product distribution tax, an excise tax of up to two cents per ounce on the first distributor in any chain of distribution of drinks with added sugar as well as sweeteners used to produce such drinks.

A briefing on the next phase of the pulse poll results, covering general health and well being, will be Wednesday. Register online at