Statewide housing task force hoping to use federal dollars for affordable housing |

Statewide housing task force hoping to use federal dollars for affordable housing

The Colorado Right to Life march in Denver

The Colorado Affordable Housing Transformational Task Force — a group of Colorado legislators exploring solutions to aid the state’s affordable housing crisis — has recommended using federal funds awarded to the state through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to help communities in dire need of affordable and attainable housing.

Rep. Dylan Roberts, the Democrat representing Routt and Eagle Counties in the statehouse and the chair of the task force, outlined a series of potential solutions he and other task force members have suggested.

– Creating a revolving loan fund that will provide below-market-rate loans to local governments, nonprofits and developers building affordable housing units.

– Providing grants to local governments who are changing zoning laws and enacting other measures making it easier to build affordable units.

– Directing grants or low-interest loans to support and maintain affordable housing and future development opportunities through land-banking, land trusts and community-owned land opportunities.

– Directing funding to support construction of prefabricated, modular, manufactured and other sources of factory-built housing.

Roberts said the measures are proposed to solve short- and long-term problems. By granting low-interest loans, the task force hopes communities can start projects now and invest in the future.

“This is one-time funding that’s not going to come again anytime soon, so it’s about how we can double down,” Roberts said. “It will help them have access to capital that they need to get projects off the ground, and help them for years to come.”

As a legislator representing two resort communities, Roberts said he hears more about housing than any other issue, which is why he wants the once-in-a-lifetime funds to go toward the cause.

“For me, this is about maintaining the character of our mountain communities, where we rely on a workforce to keep our businesses open that serve locals and visitors alike,” Roberts said. “If we can’t create the housing stock that’s needed to support that workforce, we could lose a lot of what makes our communities special.”

Though the Western Slope makes up a minority of the state’s population, Roberts said the mountain communities will take relatively high priority in receiving this funding, as it will be awarded based on needs, rather than population.

“The communities who most need this help are going to be able to get it,” Roberts said. “So I think a lot of our mountain communities are going to rise to the top with that.”

Routt County Commissioner Beth Melton said that housing needs on the Front Range are serious, as many of Colorado’s bigger cities have larger populations of people experiencing homelessness, but housing needs in mountain communities are slightly different because of the higher area median income than that of a bigger city.

“Sometimes there can be sort of a formulaic approach that prioritizes housing for folks who are experiencing homelessness or who are very low income, and rightfully so,” Melton said. “But what happens is that the needs of communities like ours kind of get de-prioritized when that happens.”

Melton said most people impacted by the housing crisis in rural, mountain communities do not earn below 30% area median income, which sometimes disqualifies those communities from state housing dollars.

Similarly, Melton said, developers often have more of an incentive to build affordable housing units in large cities than they do in rural towns.

“There’s no natural market incentive for developers to come in and build housing that’s affordable in these communities,” Melton said. “If we don’t have public dollars or incentives, we don’t get the development of housing that’s in that price range.”

Yampa Valley Housing Authority Executive Director Jason Peasley said the housing authority hopes to use the one-time federal dollars to support the Brown Ranch.

“We have a huge opportunity with Brown Ranch to leverage some of those resources,” Peasley said. “Denver has a lot of housing needs, and they can absorb all of those resources quickly, but there are needs across the state, especially in the communities like ours.”

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