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Housing prices are rising rapidly across the Mountain West, especially in resort towns, and that’s making it difficult for many residents to buy a home or rent an apartment. In this ongoing series, the Mountain West News Bureau is examining the problem — and potential solutions — across the region.

Housing costs far outpace wage increases across the Mountain West

A neighborhood in Eagle, Idaho
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A neighborhood in Eagle, Idaho

News brief

Wages are rising across the Mountain West but not as fast as housing costs, according to reports from the federal government and the nonprofit Headwaters Economics.

Average increases in weekly wages ranged from about 2% to 6% in Mountain West states between June 2020 and June 2021, according to data released last month by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

That’s a bigger increase than two years ago, but it isn’t matching skyrocketing housing costs, especially in booming cities like Boise, Idaho, and Reno, Nev., where median home values have risen by more than 20% over the last year. More than half of the zip codes in Colorado, Idaho and Utah saw unprecedented price increases in 2021, according to a Headwaters Economics analysis.

“What we’re starting to see is that affordable housing can no longer be ignored,” said Headwaters economist Megan Lawson. “There are more people recognizing the need to get involved in this conversation, especially big employers.”

She points to higher wages paid by the service industry in recent months due to ongoing worker shortages.

“I think right now we’re seeing a labor market reckoning,” she said. “Workers have a stronger voice, so I think we will see wages rise but I’m not sure they will make up that difference.”

Lawson doesn’t expect housing prices to drop anytime soon, but she does think they'll moderate.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

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