Renters Grade Denver: What Got an A-? And What Got a D?

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In recent years, renters in Denver have complained about high costs — and even though prices have moderated during the past twelve months or so, that doesn't seem to be the case for either the cheapest or most expensive neighborhoods to rent a one-bedroom apartment.

But what do renters think of the city itself?

Apartment List recently set out to answer that question for Denver and 130 other communities across the country. The site has just released results from its second-annual United States Renter Confidence Survey, based on responses from more than 30,000 renters nationwide.

Overall, Denver fared pretty well with participants, notes Andrew Woo, Apartment List's director of data science.

"Denver renters expressed great satisfaction with the city overall," reveals Woo, corresponding via e-mail. "However, ratings varied greatly across different categories, indicating that even though renters love the Mile High City, some things can be better" — including one classification in which correspondents gave Denver a D.

Continue to check out photo-illustrated grades in ten separate categories, as well as an overall-satisfaction score. For comparison purposes, we've also included grades from last year's survey in six categories — four new ones were added this year — and as you'll see, a few have fallen a bit from 2015 to 2016. That's followed by a Q&A with Woo in which he drills down into the results, opining on areas in which Denver excelled — the city earned an A- in two categories — and those rated mediocre or worse. Click to see Apartment List's complete Denver Renter Confidence Survey.

Jobs and career opportunities:

2016 grade: B+
2015 grade: A-

Quality of schools:

2016 grade: C-
2015 grade: B-

State and local taxes:

2016 grade: B
2015 grade: B


2016 grade: B+
2015 grade: N/A

Recreational activities:

2016 grade: A-
2015 grade: A

Safety and crime rate:

2016 grade: B
2015 grade: A-

Continue for more renter's survey grades of Denver, including the category graded with a D, plus a deep dive into the results.

Public transit:

2016 grade: B+
2015 grade: N/A

Commute time:

2016 grade: C
2015 grade: B+

Pet friendliness:

2016 grade: A-
2015 grade: N/A


2016 grade: D
2015 grade: N/A

Overall satisfaction:

2016 grade: A-
2015 grade: A

Here are five questions from Westword and answers by Woo in regard to the results, as well as some additional information he provided. For instance, Denver received better grades from millennials than from renters with kids.

Westword: Survey-takers give Denver a D when it comes to cost of living. Are rent prices part of that calculus? If so, how much of a factor were high or rising rent prices in the Denver metro area? How does this grade compare to cost-of-living grades in other major cities? Is the level of dissatisfaction regarding cost of living in Denver among the worst in the country? Or are there a lot of cities that survey-takers rated as poorly in this category?

Andrew Woo: Rent prices were not directly part of the calculus, but renters were asked how satisfied they were with affordability in Denver (very unsatisfied, somewhat unsatisfied, neutral, somewhat satisfied, very satisfied). Many said they were not satisfied, and I'm sure a big part of that is because of rising rent prices in the Denver area.

It's not uncommon for major cities to score poorly on affordability, as they tend to be more expensive, but Denver's results were still poor. For reference, Denver got a D for affordability, but many other cities on the interior did better: Houston (B+), Philly (B-), Dallas (B+), Chicago (C-) and Phoenix (A-). Cities on the coasts, however, tended to do worse: Seattle, SF and NYC all got Fs.

Survey-takers also gave poor grades to commute times in the Denver area. What other major cities received similar grades? Is the grade Denver received for commute times lower than in previous surveys for Denver? 

Again, big cities tend to score poorly for commutes. Chicago, Charlotte and Houston got C+, Austin got a D, Seattle got a B-. Looks like Denver slipped a grade [since last year] in a few categories....

To what do you attribute the different satisfaction levels of millennial renters versus renters who are parents?

There are many millennials who are attracted to and are moving to Denver because of the great career opportunities and recreational activities it has. Affordability is a big concern, but I think many view it as a necessary sacrifice early in their career; also, many of them may not be planning on purchasing a home yet. Many families, on the other hand, have been in Denver longer and are more likely to want to purchase a home, but the recent housing-price spike has locked many out of the housing market.

Given the negative results noted above, what positive responses counterbalanced them, allowing Denver to achieve an overall A- grade? What other cities earned a grade of A- or higher?

Overall, we find that the most important things to renters are safety, jobs and recreation (affordability is actually lower than those three). Denver did well on the three key criteria, and it looks like renters are overall very satisfied.

Is there anything Denver can do to boost its grade even further?

Affordability seems to be the biggest concern. Denver is in the midst of a construction boom that should help, but anything it can do to ease the pain of the housing-price boom should make a difference.

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