Housing Colorado, an NLIHC State Coalition Partner, recently released its housing policy priorities for the 2014 state legislative session. Chief among them are advancing housing policies that encourage the development and construction of affordable housing, and legislation to reduce obstacles to building such housing. Housing Colorado is preparing its members to educate state leaders about housing needs in their communities and will facilitate opportunities for advocates to directly communicate with state legislators.
Advocates will work to garner support for passage of HB 14-1017, a bill to reinstate the state-based Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. This program was funded in 2001 and 2002 through the Colorado Housing Credit program, but was not renewed in subsequent years. During the two years the program was in operation, it created or preserved 840 rental housing units, and generated more than $20 million in private equity through the sale of tax credits. The program also produced an estimated $57 million in secondary economic activity in the form of jobs, income, and state and local tax revenue in one year alone.
HB14-1017 would also repurpose the existing Colorado Home Investment Fund (HIF) to create the state’s first housing trust fund. According the Housing Colorado, the HIF is significantly underutilized and the language in the fund’s statute is too restrictive. HB14-1017 would expand the number of sources that can be used to support affordable housing production in the state, including federal grants. Furthermore, it would make housing production funds available to any qualified applicant, including for profit developers, which would increase the opportunity for private investments and equity. In addition, the legislation would provide more flexibility on the terms of loans awarded through the fund, allowing for a greater range of financing opportunities.
Housing Colorado is also working with state legislators to draft a bill that would reduce various barriers to affordable housing development. Advocates report some developers choose not to build multi-family, owner-occupied housing (such as condos) with affordable units because of the high cost to insure the buildings and risk of litigation. The impending legislation would aim to protect homeowners with provisions such as enhanced notice and disclosure requirements, while also influencing the insurance marketplace to make affordable housing developments more cost-effective.
On January 17, Housing Colorado held an advocacy skills bootcamp webinar to kick off efforts to arm members with the knowledge and tools needed to engage state leaders on their policy priorities. The webinar covered the basics of advocating with state legislators, including how to initiate contact with representatives, how to discuss policies that impact the advocate’s organization, and positioning oneself as a valuable resource to lawmakers. Former Colorado State legislator Gayle Berry was featured in the webinar and provided expertise from her years as an elected official and lobbyist.
The Housing Colorado Legislative Luncheon scheduled for February 13 will allow advocates to share personal stories with state representative and senators about the importance of affordable housing. Advocates hope to send a clear and unified message to lawmakers on the importance and urgency of affordable housing issues.
“Thanks to the engagement of our membership community, we have raised the profile of affordable housing issues with our state law makers,” said Sara Reynolds, Housing Colorado’s executive director. “The legislation we are seeing this year is a direct result of our credibility and partnership with state leaders and the relationships our members cultivate within their community.”
For more information, contact Sarah Cole, Housing Colorado, at firstname.lastname@example.org.