Summit County’s population grows 11%, according to 2020 census data
Family & Intercultural Resource Center says some data points aren’t entirely representative of the community
The latest data released from the U.S. Census Bureau confirmed what most Summit County residents already know: The community is growing, and so is its Hispanic population, but its housing stock continues to lag behind, causing issues for the local workforce.
The data was released so that the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission could continue the process of redrawing congressional and state legislative maps. Its results for Summit County show the discrepancy in the amount of people residing in the community and available housing units.
The overall population count for the county totaled 31,055 — a nearly 11% jump from its 2010 count of 27,994. Only 1,500 housing units were added to the market in the same time frame, a 5% increase.
Brianne Snow, executive director of the Family & Intercultural Resource Center, said she’s witnessing this unbalanced growth firsthand.
“I will say that we’re seeing more overcrowded housing situations — unsafe housing situations — than we have in years and years, (such as) families living in the living room of (some houses) because they can’t afford rent, (or) two families of five living in a two-bedroom condo,” Snow said. “Those situations we’re seeing more so than ever before.”
Snow said she doesn’t believe some of the data to be completely accurate, such as the amount of vacant housing units within the county. According to the data, the county has a total of 31,342 housing units, nearly 59% of which are sitting vacant. This is relatively the same as the 2010 data, which reported that about 61% of the county’s housing stock was vacant.
“I think we have filled a lot of those houses with people,” Snow said. “I don’t think the vacancy rate is actually as high as the census is reporting … because it happened during COVID. I don’t think it actually changes the dynamics at all. There’s a lot more people living here so there’s less inventory, there’s less empty homes, but again, it’s those folks that have moved here that aren’t necessarily contributing to the workforce.”
Snow’s point is that most people were filling out the census at the beginning and early stages of the pandemic, which is when many people moved to the county. Snow believes that a lot remote workers new to the county are now living in those previously vacant units, which takes that inventory out of the pool for the local workforce that could have been turned into deed-restricted homes.
Snow said there’s also a high number of vacant homes because there’s a high number of second homeowners who use these properties for maybe only a handful of weeks throughout the year.
The housing stock and the overall population aren’t the only data that is telling a story. The 2020 data also shows there the county’s Hispanic population grew nearly 34% since 2010. Again, Snow said she believes this number isn’t representative of new community members moving to Summit County, but rather makes up for low counts in 2010.
“I have the opinion that I don’t think that the 2010 census data was actually very accurate,” Snow said. “I think there were a lot of uncounted individuals and families just because they didn’t have, necessarily, culturally competent ways to engage people in the count. I think in 2020, despite COVID, they did a much better job. Several organizations and entities around Summit County helped. … We were really able to let people know it was safe to be counted.”
One of the people to help lead that charge was Andrea Ridder. Ridder — who is now the spokesperson for the Summit School District — was formerly the marketing and events coordinator for the resource center and helped engage the local Hispanic community in completing the census. Ridder said there was some distrust from the local Hispanic community about filling out the census, as well as simple communication barriers that needed to be resolved.
“I think we have to do a better job of communicating in a culturally relevant way. … We have a gap in communication and I think that’s the other piece of it. We have to meet people where they are and we’ve got to do a better job of that.”
Some of the efforts to engage both populations of the community included distributing flyers at its food bank, social media posts and ads on the radio.
The census is an important tool because it helps the government decide how to distribute funds and services, as well as how much representation each state should get. For example, Colorado is getting a new congressional district due to the latest counts.
As for how much funding this could translate for the county, neither representatives from the U.S. Census Bureau or Summit County returned a request for comment in time for publication.
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