Homeownership for Colorado Teachers: Affording the American Dream

From 2020 to 2021 home prices in Colorado increased 20%, elevating an already important question about who can afford to be a homeowner in the state, and where. Homeownership for Colorado Teachers: Affording the American Dream is a report from the Keystone Policy Center that explores whether teachers in Colorado can afford to buy a home in the district in which they teach.

Keystone partnered with the Colorado Futures Center to produce the report, which evaluated statewide public data to define what earnings would be required for a teacher to purchase a home. It then determined the proportion of housing within a school district that would be affordable on the average teacher salary. The report also estimated an affordability threshold—the maximum value of a home that a teacher could purchase—and evaluated the number of units available at or below that threshold. Finally, the report evaluates the relationship between salary and housing affordability; and presents a series of non-exhaustive questions that communities could discuss to address the issue. 

Summary of Findings 

A brief summary of the findings in the report includes: 

  • Over the past seven years, average teacher salaries have increased nearly 25%, a rate that was similar to the increase seen in Colorado broadly where average salaries for all workers increased by 23% over the same time frame. However, while 18 school districts pay an average teacher salary at or above the statewide average, 160 districts pay less than that salary. 
  • Statewide in 2021, out of nearly 1.9 million homes in the state, less than 20% in total were valued at a price that was at or below the Estimated Affordability Threshold specific to the district.  
  • The regions that were least affordable include Mountain, Metro Denver, Northern Colorado, and Colorado Springs area school districts, where over 80% of Colorado’s 54,000 educators live. 
  • There is not a strong association between average salaries and districts with more housing affordable at that salary. In fact, there is a slight negative relationship between average salary and local housing affordability at that salary – indicating that housing prices are well out of reach in many communities across the state, even those where teachers are compensated with relatively higher wages. 
  • Interest rates significantly impact the affordability of homeownership with far more accessible housing for teachers across the state in the mid-2010s, despite increased house prices and/or the limited average wage growth in many districts. 

Colorado Homeownership Affordability Map

Keystone has also published an interactive map to accompany the report which allows a user to explore housing affordability by region or even by individual school district across the state. The Colorado Homeownership Affordability Map provides the average teacher salary for the district as well as allows the user to enter a custom salary to see how the share of affordability in the district changes. Click the image below to access the interactive map.