Jul 25, 2022

Recent articles

Recap: Special Legislative Session 2023

In the aftermath of the 2023 November election and the failure of Proposition HH, Colorado Governor Jared Polis called a special session of the Colorado General Assembly, held from November 17 to November 20.  Over the course of a fast-paced and grueling weekend of...

Systemic failure in Colorado’s PHE Unwind

During this post-COVID year of Medicaid renewals, known as the Public Health Emergency (PHE) Unwind, Colorado is terminating members at rates that are among the highest in the country, many for procedural reasons.

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.

Recent articles

Recap: Special Legislative Session 2023

In the aftermath of the 2023 November election and the failure of Proposition HH, Colorado Governor Jared Polis called a special session of the Colorado General Assembly, held from November 17 to November 20.  Over the course of a fast-paced and grueling weekend of...

Systemic failure in Colorado’s PHE Unwind

During this post-COVID year of Medicaid renewals, known as the Public Health Emergency (PHE) Unwind, Colorado is terminating members at rates that are among the highest in the country, many for procedural reasons.

HEALTH:
HEALTH FIRST COLORADO (MEDICAID)

To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.

FOOD SECURITY:
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP)

Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.

FOOD SECURITY:
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION PROGRAM FOR WOMEN, INFANTS AND CHILDREN (WIC)

Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.

EARLY LEARNING:
COLORADO CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CCCAP)

Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.