Aging population, housing prices to weigh on city, expert says

Littleton will have to grapple with wave of retiring baby boomers

Posted 3/4/19

News flash: Baby boomers are getting old. But how will Littleton respond to a wave of retirees? That's one of the questions Littleton will have to answer in coming decades, said Chris Akers, an …

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Aging population, housing prices to weigh on city, expert says

Littleton will have to grapple with wave of retiring baby boomers

Posted

News flash: Baby boomers are getting old.

But how will Littleton respond to a wave of retirees?

That's one of the questions Littleton will have to answer in coming decades, said Chris Akers, an economist with the Colorado Demography Office, who presented an overview of Littleton's demographics on Feb. 27, as the first in a series of speakers hosted by the city as part of its Envision Littleton project.

“Littleton is older than the state average,” Akers told a capacity crowd at the Littleton Museum. “I think the city will experience the impact of an aging population sooner.”

Littleton's median age is 42.2, according to the demography office. Colorado's median age is 36.5, Denver's is 37 and Englewood's is 36.6.

The impacts of an aging populace will be wide-ranging, Akers said: a high elderly population puts downward pressure on average income and therefore tax revenues, requires greater access to health care, and mandates handicapped-accessible housing stock and infrastructure.

“Right now we don't have an adequate supply of 55-plus housing options or nursing homes,” Akers said. “Since we're starting from a deficit, it'll take time to build them.”

As the city looks to draft its first comprehensive plan since 1981 — and its first-ever transportation master plan — coming up with a plan to address the impacts of aging is imperative, said City Manager Mark Relph.

“What does (an aging population) mean from a transportation standpoint?” Relph said. “What's our strategy? What level of investment do we need to make?”

The city will be seeking significant public input on that topic and many more in coming months, said Kathleen Osher, the project manager for Envision Littleton.

City council and city staff will spend much of spring and summer 2019 gathering data and feedback ahead of the scheduled completion of the plans in October, Osher said.

An array of other demographic factors will impact Littleton and Colorado in the coming decades, Akers said.

No surprise, housing costs are a concern.

“Housing prices (statewide) are up 80 percent over the last decade, but incomes are only up about 10 percent,” Akers said.

The median sales price of a single-family home in Littleton at the end of 2018 was $465,000, according to the Denver Metro Association of Realtors.

Statewide, new housing units are finally being built faster than new households are being formed, Akers said, but Littleton will still need to grapple with how to meet housing needs — especially considering that Arapahoe County is expected to add 188,000 people between now and 2050.

“How that unfolds will depend on land use plans,” Akers said. “Do we want a lot of single-family homes, or multi-family?”

The question, Relph said, is interwoven with questions about jobs and transportation.

Just 8 percent of jobs in Littleton are held by people who also live in the city.

“What does it mean if we wanted to increase that percentage?” Relph said. “A lot of people coming into Littleton to work translates to traffic congestion. We pay for that in the level of transportation improvements we have to make. If we change that strategy to increase the number of people who are able to live here, there's a social and economic cost, but there are cost savings in transportation.”

There are a lot of big questions to hammer out in coming months, Relph said, but once the city settles on a set of goals, it'll have to answer the most important question:

“Can we afford it?”

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