Med Center housing remains a struggle

Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center is considered one of the valley’s best employers, particularly from a standpoint of employee pay rates and benefits.

But even the Medical Center struggles with employee pay as it relates to housing, as noted in  recent stories by Mail reporter D.J. DeJong.

The housing market is tight. Finding suitable homes available and having the cash for a 20 percent down payment are both issues in themselves. Setting the above aside, however, the following  illustrates affordable housing issues.

Current single family home prices in Salida in July averaged $413,000 and town homes $347,000. With 20 percent down and interest rates of 3.75 percent, monthly payments including insurance and taxes come to approximately $1,942 and $1,656 respectively.

At a guideline of 30 percent of income for housing, to qualify for and afford a single-family home at current average cost in Salida, an individual or family would need to earn about $78,000 annually, and for a town home at current average cost, annual income would need to be about $65,000.

According to salary ranges provided by the Medical Center, medical technologists and registered nurses who are just starting their careers would not qualify for conventional mortgages with 20 percent down at Salida’s current average prices for either single-family or town homes.

Nurses and med techs would need to have about six years experience to qualify for a town home loan and would have to be at the upper end of pay scales for the two positions, at about $78,000 annually, to qualify for an average single-family home.

Hospital clerical and environmental services jobs, for example janitors or cafeteria positions, earning from $23,500 to $38,000 annually, would simply not have sufficient income to qualify for conventional loans to purchase homes in this market.

The rental situation is not much better. The current median rent in Salida is about $1,450 with only a limited selection available at any given time.

To accommodate those who commute to jobs at the Medical Center from outside the valley and who have RVs, the Salida Hospital Board recently approved installation of parking lot RV hookups.

Medical Center officials and board members have also considered and discussed the possibility of adding employee housing, though no action has been taken to this point.

That many of those working at one of the valley’s better paying entities would have difficulty qualifying for home loans or finding suitable rentals makes a statement about where housing costs are in today’s market.

Those working at jobs at smaller businesses who cannot match the higher paying jobs such as those at the Medical Center – which is the vast majority of employees – are priced out of the market, if they have not already set their housing arrangements. And few if any small businesses can set up RV hookups or have the resources to provide housing for their employees.

The Medical Center’s example, of its pay rates as they relate to housing costs, is why city and county officials need to be aware of and understand that actions they take can negatively impact housing availability and cost and to avoid those actions if at all possible.

Volunteers needed

It’s harvest season at Colorado Farm to Table with cabbage, broccoli and sweet corn ready for picking and processing. While many have already turned out – thank you for your help! – more volunteers are needed. Go to coloradofarmtotable.org for information on volunteering.

— MJB