Action needed now to solve state’s affordable housing crisis
Democrats and Republicans at the state capitol have the opportunity to pass two bills that will have historic impact for working Coloradoans. Senate Bill 156 and House Bill 1309 bring long overdue reform and resources for affordable housing. Coloradoans need both bills to pass. Affordable housing is defined as paying less than 30 percent of your income on your housing costs.
Recent studies show that 400,000 households in Colorado – nearly half of all renter households in the state – are paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs. First-time Colorado home buyers are getting shut out of the market as there is virtually no housing available below $250,000. Under current production rates (1,000 homes per year), it would take more than 100 years to eliminate the housing affordability gap in Colorado. The housing squeeze on Colorado working families is only getting worse. Recent estimates from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment show that over 70% of jobs for Colorado over the next 10 years will have starting salaries of less than $36,000 per year, well below the median income necessary to afford to rent or buy a two- bedroom home in much of our state. Escalating housing costs also affect the overall economy.
A recent study from the Shift Research Lab shows that cost-burdened households (spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing) account for $2 billion less spending each year on consumer goods in Colorado. In turn this hurts local businesses, stalls economies and compromises state and local governments who rely heavily on sales tax revenue. Families that have affordable housing have greater stability, which in turn reduces poverty and health care costs, while providing greater disposable income to spend in their community. Colorado’s affordable housing gap is at a crisis level, as communities across the State grapple with how teachers, heath care workers, first responders, and many others can afford to stay and work in their communities.
Historically Colorado has relied on Federal funds from Housing & Urban Development (HUD) to support affordable rental and home ownership. These dollars have never been enough to address our growing affordable housing needs, and with proposed cuts to HUD’s budget we need to have creative state solutions that can address Colorado’s affordable housing crisis
Senate Bill 156 would help bring back entry level condo development, homes priced below $250,000. The bill successfully passed the Senate with bipartisan support, but it awaits stiff opposition from House Democratic leadership. We request House leadership support SB 156 as it will help open up entry level homeownership for working Coloradoans.
House Bill 1309: We are one of only a few states without a dedicated source of funding for affordable housing. HB 1309 introduced by Democratic Reps. Dominque Jackson and Faith Winter in the House and co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Don Coram, is breaking ground for Colorado as it’s the first dedicated source of funding to support affordable rental and home ownership. HB 1309 would implement a state share of the document recording fee — by increasing the fee by one penny per $100. This allows counties to continue retaining the full $0.01 fee they currently collect. On a $250,000 real estate transaction, $25 would now go to affordable housing. The bill would allow us to triple the annual production of affordable housing in the State, thereby adding upwards of 4,500 affordable homes a year and over half a billion a year of State and local income. This is great news for Colorado.
Our three companies strongly support both bills as we see first-hand the growing demand for affordable rental and home ownership in the Colorado communities we work in. Habitat for Humanity’s Colorado affiliates are the largest providers of affordable home ownership in the state with 2,000 homes built, renovated, and repaired in partnership with low income Colorado families. Increasingly, Habitat for Humanity is moving into more dense construction and is building condominiums and townhomes to keep homes affordable — indeed in many markets this is the only way to create homeownership opportunities that are within reach for working families. In order to create truly inclusive communities, we need investment in opportunity, as well as the ability to be creative in meeting the full array of community housing needs.
Urban Land Conservancy (ULC) has partnered on a number of Transit Oriented Developments (TOD) that have preserved or added through new construction over 1,000 affordable rental homes in Colorado, but we are not coming close to addressing the affordable rental housing demand with over 120,000 unit short fall in the state. In addition, we have not been able to produce entry level for sale condos (below $250,000), as none of our development partners can afford to take the risk and the cost to build these condos under today’s state laws.
Thrive Home Builders has been a home-grown builder in Colorado since 1992. As the winner for the fourth year in a row of the Department of Energy’s Grand Award for Home Innovation, Thrive builds sustainable, environmentally responsible homes. Thrive is also Denver’s largest private homebuilder of affordable, “for sale” housing.
SB 156 and HB 1309 are two critical tools that will have a great impact on addressing our growing affordable housing gap in Colorado. We ask our Colorado representatives to invest in our State and support both Bills as they strengthen our economy while given Coloradoans affordable housing options. We can’t wait another year.
Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity Colorado
President, Urban Land Conservancy
CEO, Thrive Home Builders