Last fall, several months before COVID-19, the West Central Public Health Partnership conducted a detailed survey of its region’s residents. Respondents were asked to rate the importance of and give their opinions on a wide variety of health issues.
When asked to select the three most important characteristics of a healthy community, Gunnison County residents ranked affordable housing second most important (48%) after access to healthcare (61%), which was the most important characteristic. Healthy behavior and lifestyle ranked third (39%), only slightly ahead of good jobs and healthy economy (38%). With only a 4% margin of error, these two are essentially tied for third.
When asked to rate the severity of various housing issues, 20% found responded that “lack of money to pay for housing” was either a moderate or major issue and 13% described “living in housing that needs major repairs” to be either moderate or major issue. Seven percent said “not having enough room for the people who live there” was either moderate or major issue. Indeed, a recent Gunnison Country Times article mentioned lack of affordable housing as a possible explanation for Sheriff’s Office turnover.
It would be interesting to conduct the survey now that we are in the midst of a pandemic that has halted economic growth and caused widespread unemployment. The number of households lacking enough money to pay for housing has no doubt increased as unemployment and furloughs have reached record high levels. As we strive to recover the economy, we need to remember to solve the affordable housing crisis that existed before the pandemic.