Jul 25, 2022

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Affordable Housing Policy Forum Recap, Part 1: The Event, ARPA, & more

by | Jul 25, 2022

Earlier this month, CCLP hosted its first ever Policy Forum series event on the Future of Affordable Housing in Colorado. We had an incredible turnout with thoughtful questions and in-depth conversations. From federal funding given to the housing sector, to the struggles of re-entry after incarceration, to the need for accessibility for individuals with disabilities, the event affirmed that affordable housing is a complex and critical topic in Colorado. Rising rents, cash offers, limited housing, and difficult landlords are just some of the barriers Coloradans face. While there is no one answer to solve every housing issue, the Policy Forum event served as an opportunity to share insights from the legislative front lines while hearing directly from community partners and residents hailing from across the state. We are grateful for the deluge of wonderful interaction and want to share just some of the details that arose from this fast-paced hour event. 

This is part 1 in a series of 3. Continue reading about the event and the issues of affordable housing in parts 2 and 3 with links at the bottom of this article.

You can also watch the full event on our YouTube channel.

Colorado’s Affordable Housing Crisis 

With a high demand for homes and the state having a low supply, it’s no wonder Colorado is facing an affordable housing crisis. The supply of housing has failed to keep pace with population growth, but several compounding factors contribute to both those shortages, as well as to other reasons why Colorado housing is so unaffordable right now. Some factors may be out of community control, such as mortgage interest rates, economic conditions, an influx of new residents, or the cost of materials and labor. But local policies including zoning and land regulations have also resulted in a mismatched supply and demand for housing.  

Read more about affordable housing bills passed in 2022 in our Housing Legislation list here.

 

ARPA Funding in CO 

One of the topics discussed at the event was the role of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding in providing new opportunities to support Coloradans experiencing poverty. 

In the last five years, awareness of housing affordability has become more widespread among lawmakers. Many bills passed in recent years have generated affordable housing and expanded protections for tenants, but also proved that increased funding is necessary to accomplish meaningful policy changes. That need for government investment in affordable housing grew substantially due to the immense difficulties Americans faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. So, in 2021, President Biden signed ARPA into law, providing, among other things, a one-time direct financial relief to the states. 

Colorado received more than $9 billion in ARPA funding, including $528 million earmarked for the housing sector. Colorado’s legislature further split this funding into legislation passed in 2021 and 2022, with a large portion going to two grant programs funding local governments and nonprofit organizations to support affordable housing.  

Our friends at Colorado Health Institute created an insightful interactive map identifying where ARPA funding will be distributed. 

 

Environmental Factors 

As participants observed, affordable housing is not just about new construction; the topic must factor environmental concerns as well. Environmental advocacy transforms the way we see housing in a way that is sustainable and creative. One example of this is seen through the efforts to use public land for public good, such as public institutions using their land to build housing. Following the federal Base Conversion Act of 1992, the military has converted closed bases such as the Alameda naval base in California into residential districts with hundreds of homes, many of which are designated affordable housing units. Similarly, cities across the country have incentivized developers to transform old and empty buildings into single use occupancy (SRO) hotel rooms. 

Other organizations referenced, such as the Rural Workforce Housing Innovation Coalition, have turned to rural communities to get away from the hectic energy of metro cities. This move in economic development focuses on the labor shortages and fosters new enterprises with more holistic strategies for alternative living spaces in the state. Infill development is one such option. This model avoids many carbon emissions from building new homes, like those being built in the prairies and foothills, and instead restructures urban development. This mindset is eco-conscious, as it makes areas more walkable, where there are added amenities within the area and people are less dependent on vehicles for travel. Similarly, proponents of environmentally friendly housing have concentrated their efforts in habitat preservation, native plant advocacy, and water conservation as a means of sustainability. 

 

Incarceration 

One topic raised in the event that is often overlooked is housing for individuals leaving incarceration. While they are expected to reintegrate into society, many individuals are denied housing due to their criminal record. One solution to this issue is to create innovative housing models that support these individuals, also known as accessory housing, where many of the houses are shared living arrangements. Part of the forum conversation included the possibility of renting a home under a master lease contract, where individuals can sublease the rooms as said shared living model. This type of housing is a public service model and is vital to reducing recidivism rates, assists with stability, lessens taxpayer burdens, and provides affordable housing options for disenfranchised populations. (We are particularly grateful for the work of Remerg, a Colorado organization focused on providing re-entry resources, including housing, shelters, and safe houses.)

 

For Part 2: ADUs, mobile homes, rent stabilization, and new development, read here.

For Part 3: Attendee questions and resources, read here.

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