Littleton housing price squeeze still tightening

Proportion of young families continues to drop; most earners unable to afford median home price


The proportion of young families in Littleton continues to fall as housing prices climb ever higher, according to a recent study.

The number of households with children fell to 24% in 2018, down from 29% in 2010, according to an analysis by Root Policy Research presented to city council on Sept. 1.

The study was an update to a landmark 2017 analysis of Littleton’s housing stock prepared by Root Policy, then part of BBC Research and Consulting. The prior study primarily looked at data ending in 2015, while the update used data ending in 2018.

The updated study found many of the conditions identified in the prior analysis, including housing prices that have put Littleton out of reach of many wage earners, have only gotten more pronounced.

Read the report's conclusions.

Median housing value continued to skyrocket, the study found. The median sale price of a single-family home in Littleton jumped from $299,000 in 2015 to $416,258 in 2018, a climb of 39%. Meanwhile, median household income climbed from $65,221 to $73,185, a climb of just 12%.

Read the report's statistical analysis.

Declining ownership affordability means that of 18 industries examined by the study, only professionals in oil and gas can afford a median-priced house on a single median income. That’s down from 2015, when “professional services” and financial and insurance professionals could also afford the median housing price.

In 2016, the analysis found, roughly 5% of housing units sold or listed in Littleton were priced below $200,000. By 2019/2020, that number had dropped to below 1%. Housing units priced below $300,000 represented a quarter of homes sold or listed in 2016 but had dropped to 13% in 2019/2020.

In the rental market, only a third of Littleton rentals were priced below $1,000 in 2018, down from about half in 2015.

While median rent climbed 20% in the period, from $1,008 in 2015 to $1,206 in 2018, median renter income climbed 29%, keeping up with rents.

There’s a catch, though: analysts believe the increase in renter income may not be due to improved wages, but because low-income earners have been priced out and moved elsewhere, begun doubling up with friends and family, or even fallen off into homelessness.

The number of renters spending more than 30% of their income on rent, considered “cost-burdened” by analysts, actually fell slightly over the period, from 49% to 47%, but the number of severely cost-burdened renters, those spending more than 50% of their income on rent, climbed from 21% to 27%.

The analysis found a shortage of 1,094 rental units priced below $625 a month, needed to meet the needs of renters making less than $25,000 a year. Only 788 rental units fit that price point in 2018, while 1,882 renter households made $25,000 a year or less.

Demographic trends show the number of young adults aged 25-34 actually increased slightly, from 13% in 2015 to 15% in 2018, though analysts said the declining number of households with children mean young people may move away when they begin having kids.

Median income continued to show a wide disparity between homeowners and renters, with owners making a median income of $99,634, versus median renter income of $48,367 — about half what owners make.

Many of the recommendations that emerged from the prior study still stand, now in even greater relief, the analysis found: Littleton should set goals to mitigate increases to the rental gap, analysts say.

Other recommendations include implementing policies and programs to improve homeownership affordability, taking an inventory of vacant and underutilized parcels for residential redevelopment potential, and increasing financial resources to preserve affordable housing and development.


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