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Colorado task force advances plan to spend $400M on affordable housing initiatives

 A 90-unit affordable housing development is currently being built on the west side of Steamboat Springs.
Scott Franz/Capitol Coverage
Some of the funding could help expedite new affordable housing projects in places like Steamboat Springs, which was building a new 90-unit project this summer.

A task force advising Colorado lawmakers on how to spend an estimated $400 million in federal coronavirus relief money on affordable housing projects has approved a spending plan.

The overwhelming consensus of the 16-member group is to spend $300 million on grants to help cities and towns facilitate affordable housing projects, as well as a revolving loan fund that developers could use to build units more quickly.

The recommendation from the task force comes after months of meetings and public hearings held this summer.

It also comes as many communities, including Crested Butte and Ouray, have declared housing emergencies and gone directly to voters to impose new fees on short-term rentals in order to raise funds for affordable units.

The task force’s funding recommendations still must be approved by the full legislature when it returns next month.

The spending proposal includes:

Revolving loan fund ($150 million)

The committee says this fund will “develop or fund flexible low-interest, below market revolving loan funds to support increases in new developments, preservation and rehabilitation of existing housing, property conversions, and non-traditional housing capacity in diverse geographic communities where the economic impact of COVID has significantly impacted housing affordability and availability.”

Nonprofit and local government grants ($150 million)

Rick Garcia, the director of the state’s Department of Local Affairs, says this grant program could help places like Steamboat Springs get larger affordable housing projects off the ground.

The Yampa Valley Housing Authority is pursuing a project on a 536-acre property it just acquired west of town. But Garcia says there are expensive challenges that a grant from the state could help remove.

There are no public utility access points to that property at all,” Garcia said. “This kind of grant program could be an enormous contribution to allow some kind of phasing to start to get some collection of rental units and for sale units to start.”

The committee says the grants could go to “nonprofits and local governments that have or are pursuing measures in place to facilitate affordable housing development for purchase of land for and development of supportive, rental, and for-sale housing targeted at populations disproportionately impacted by COVID.”

Modular housing ($40 million)

The committee says this money will “attract, encourage, and support the implementation and construction of pre-fabricated housing (i.e., modular, 3-D printed, manufactured, kits, etc.) in diverse geographic areas of the state where communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID and traditionally lacked access to affordable housing and housing resources.”

According to a recent report from the Colorado Sun, some communities have already turned to modular housing to solve their capacity woes.

A modular housing factory in Buena Vista touted that it could produce as many as two homes a day.

Resident-owned communities, mobile home parks and land-banking ($35 million)

The committee says this money will be spent on grants and/or low interest loans that will “preserve naturally occurring affordable housing and future development opportunities through land-banking, land trusts, and community-owned land opportunities prioritized for communities and populations disproportionately impacted by COVID. “

This could include spending money to help owners of mobile homes avoid evictions and invest in their communities.

Loans to promote housing for the “missing middle” ($25 million)

This proposal from Gov. Jared Polis aims to create more units for teachers, school workers, firefighters and other employees who sometimes make too much money to qualify for housing credits but too little to afford paying rent in their community without assistance. According to a presentation from the governor’s office, this program would specifically use money to incentivize developers to build units these workers can afford instead of creating more expensive units.

Corrected: December 9, 2021 at 1:37 PM MST
This story has been updated to specify Crested Butte and Ouray as examples of communities that have declared housing emergencies
Scott Franz is an Investigative Reporter with KUNC.
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