June 23, 2024 12:25 am
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Report: Colorado’s Housing Affordability Crisis Calls for Strategic Investments

Credit: iStock

Eric Galatas

Housing affordability has become a top priority for Colorado lawmakers and voters, and a new report from an organization with nearly four decades of experience in the sector makes a case for how new federal and state resources should be prioritized.

Cathy Alderman with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless said policymakers should resist the urge to invest in housing considered affordable for middle and higher income families, because they actually have other options.

“When you are using very limited public resources, you have to target that for low income households, or for those living on fixed incomes or no incomes,” Alderman urged. “Because without government intervention, those households will never be able to access and afford housing.”

The Colorado Apartment Association has called for developer-friendly solutions they believe will increase the supply of housing units, including grants, tax credits, permit-fee reductions, and rezoning. Lawmakers are considering a land use proposal to make it easier to add more townhomes, duplexes and so-called mother-in-law additions, but the measure has faced significant pushback from single-family neighborhoods.

More than 21,000 existing housing units in Denver are currently unoccupied, more than enough to house all the estimated 10,000 people experiencing homelessness across the state. But owners can currently write off vacant units as losses or business expenses.

Alderman argued the marketplace is not equipped to solve a crisis created by decades of underinvestment at the federal level.

“Housing is not a normal commodity,” Alderman emphasized. “If you just create more unaffordable housing, that’s not going to solve the housing crisis. So supply has to be tied to affordability.”

Without targeted investments, Alderman contended homes for the state’s lowest-income households will not be built or preserved. Meanwhile, rents in Colorado have increased by more than 20% during the past two years, and families have been forced to spend more of their limited income on housing.

“Meaning they have fewer resources for child care, for healthy food, transportation,” Alderman outlined. “Which is a real strain on a household’s budget. And can put them at risk of falling into the cycle of homelessness, because one event in their life could mean they can’t make rent payments.”

Disclosure: The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Health Issues, Housing/Homelessness, and Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

This story was written by Eric Galatas, a producer at Public News Service, where this story first appeared.