Housing demand is greater than ever but Colorado is building fewer homes than expected. Here’s why. | SummitDaily.com

Housing demand is greater than ever but Colorado is building fewer homes than expected. Here’s why.

Tamara Chuang and Taylor Washington
Colorado Sun
Susan Ohlhaber of Morrison saws lumber for a table during a construction boot camp at the Colorado Homebuilding Academy on Monday, August 20, 2021, in Denver. The Academy teaches construction skills, technical math and power tool usage to attendees, many of which have transitioned into jobs within the housing and construction industry.
Olivia Sun/The Colorado Sun

DENVER — In a past life, Susan Ohlhaber helped people as a mental health counselor. Actually, it wasn’t that long ago. It was just last year. Then the COVID-19 pandemic began and she was laid off.

Ohlhaber, who lives in Morrison, is now learning the difference between a jig saw, a circular saw and a reciprocating saw. She can make plunge cuts that will hopefully get her hired by any construction company. She’s been training for a new career at the Colorado Homebuilding Academy. She said it’s a path that fits a creative streak she never pursued and fulfills her desire to help people.

“It seemed like this was the start if you want to be working as a homebuilder or in the field of construction. I didn’t know specifically what I had in mind and I still don’t. But I’ve learned so much in this class,” Ohlhaber said. “And I know people need housing.”

The students at the four-week boot camp are also helping the home building industry tackle a pre-pandemic problem that has existed for years in Colorado: there just aren’t enough construction workers to build houses for everyone who wants or needs one. That has pushed home prices to record highs and inventory, some say, to nothing.

Builders, however, never stopped building. While material costs have risen and the supply chain has slowed, the industry points to an increasingly tight labor market that has been getting even tighter in recent years. The demand for more housing has not been stronger, and that’s evidenced in the rising number of building permits in Colorado. Six of the top 20 biggest months since 1988 have occurred since October.

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