Apr 15, 2019

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ADVOCACY ALERT: Support affordable housing in Colorado

The lack of affordable housing continues to be a crisis in Colorado, with no end in sight. A recent poll identified affordable housing as the No. 1 issue among likely Denver voters. But the problem is not isolated to the Front Range: Over 6,000 households in the Eastern Plains, 9,000 households in the Central Mountains and 32,000 households in the Western Slope are weighed down by the cost of housing.

This crisis destabilizes the health and well-being of individual Coloradans and families by crowding out spending on other necessities, keeping them from saving money to cushion against an emergency and sometimes pushing them into homelessness. Studies consistently show that housing instability negatively affects children’s academic performance, mental health and long-term financial security.

In recent years, budgetary limitations have prevented Colorado legislators from providing adequate financial resources to address this growing and persistent problem. Indeed, any meaningful public investment into affordable housing would require tens of millions of dollars over a prolonged period, and money coming from the state’s general fund would compete with education, health care, transportation and higher education and other important needs.

Fortunately, legislators will have an opportunity to consider a measure this session that will help relieve the housing crisis without fiscal implications for the state’s budget or taxpayers.

Developed by Colorado Center on Law and Policy, House Bill 1322 would expand the supply of affordable housing by investing $40 million a year for seven years into a fund that would provide grants and loans for a range of needs, including acquisition, renovation and construction of affordable housing. In addition, the fund could finance down-payment assistance and support home-ownership. It would also help keep mobile homes livable and provide rental assistance for a range of populations.

The fund would be administered by the Colorado Division of Housing, which would consult with stakeholders from urban and rural communities so that the funds address a variety of needs throughout the state. HB 1322 reflects discussions of a broad group of stakeholders from urban and rural areas, convened by Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate.

The bill doesn’t rely on taxpayer dollars or tap into the state budget. Funding will come from the unclaimed property trust fund: a sustainable source of revenue that’s been used to pay for dental benefits for adult Medicaid recipients. It was also used to shore up general fund during the recession. The unclaimed property fund consists of dormant bank accounts, securities and life insurance proceeds and the like. While Colorado’s State Treasure makes a tremendous effort to reunite people with money they forgot or didn’t know they had, there are hundreds of millions of dollars in the fund that remain uncollected every year. HB 1322 would put a fraction of that money to good use solving a real problem in Colorado: the lack of affordable housing.

Sponsored by Rep. Dylan Roberts, Sen. Dominick Moreno and Sen. Don Coram, HB 1322 has been endorsed by the Urban Land Conservancy, Enterprise Community Partners, Colorado Municipal League, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Colorado Counties Acting Together, Habitat for Humanity Colorado, Interfaith Alliance, Boulder Housing Partners, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, The Denver Foundation, Center for Health Progress, Colorado Senior Lobby, Colorado Bankers Association, Denver Metro Fair Housing Center, Together Colorado, The Arc of Colorado, Denver Metro Fair Housing Center, Together Colorado and Wells Fargo Bank.

HB 1322 is scheduled to be heard by the House Finance Committee on Wednesday, April 17. If you are interested in joining the coalition of organizations and individuals supporting the bill, please contact Claire Levy at [email protected].

Recent articles

CCLP Statement on Health and Hospital Corporation v. Talevski

Last term, we watched as the Supreme Court issued rulings that had wide sweeping consequences for individuals across the country. The Court tipped its hat to the second amendment by expanding the ability to carry guns in public while simultaneously decimating the...

New Public Charge Rule is a Victory for Immigrant Communities

Some immigrants who apply for a green card or a visa to enter the United States must pass what’s called a “public charge” test. The test is designed to evaluate whether the person will primarily depend on the government for support in the future, based on factors such...