Housing crisis

HUDSON | Let go of local obstacles to ease the housing crisis | Opinion






Miller Hudson


Access to affordable housing has been a Colorado challenge for nearly two decades. As the state’s economy recovered from the housing meltdown of the early 1990s, prices began to rise and they never looked back. Demand is finally collapsing into economic reality, with average stock appreciation jumping 9% in March alone. In 2018 in British Columbia (pre-COVID), Colorado homebuilders hosted a forum to examine why building defects legislation approved in HB 17-1279 was failing to incentivize more condos and townhouses . My column discussing their meeting concluded, “…confidence in the market is not likely to prove successful. While homebuilders would love to build affordable housing, if they could turn a profit in the process, without subsidies…our housing crisis is likely to get worse before it gets better.

We have arrived – not only have things gotten worse, but there is a severe shortage of new housing, whether the units are truly affordable or not. The homebuilder who observed four years ago that “(we are) suffering from economic success” did not foresee that what was then a simple shortage would become a seller’s fever dream. There is an inherent lag between proposing housing projects and bringing new apartments and houses to the real estate market. It is high time to recognize that we are facing a housing emergency.

Addressing this issue will require us to roll back local barriers to affordable housing, which will be particularly challenging in a “locally controlled” state. Providing affordable housing is a concept widely embraced in theory, but rarely in practice and certainly not in your neighborhood or mine. The fear of low-income neighbors is largely imaginary, especially when owning is preferred over renting. It’s time to start thinking well outside the box.

Most local communities own vacant public properties owned by the local school district or other government entities. Enabling legislation allowing these agencies to directly transfer surplus properties at no cost to affordable housing developers should be considered. So-called “tap charges” for water, sewer, and associated infrastructure costs can reach $40,000 per home. These should also be removed in favor of a single access charge for affordable housing projects that offer multiple dwellings. Zoning and building code rules could also be relaxed, as Boulder County recently approved for homeowners considering rebuilding after January’s horrific fire.

Thinking more broadly, municipalities should be prepared to set aside the current development model which requires a portion of every new development to be set aside for tenants with limited income – but only in return for a commitment to build an even further proportion. largest number of affordable housing starts within a 2 to 3 mile radius. Whether we approve of the attitudes of those who can afford multimillion-dollar penthouses, we should recognize that most are unwilling to share their comforts with those who have been less fortunate. As a result, desperately needed projects often cannot start.

Taking it even further, why not offer tax credits to developers who use manufactured or modular building techniques, an approach the Israelis have almost perfected. They are permanent structures rather than trailer parks. Developers may offer additional positive suggestions. It is in no one’s interest that the Colorado housing market is effectively closed to 40% of incoming workers. We have reached a point of madness. A professional couple looking for a home in Denver’s Park Hill and willing to spend $900,000 were advised by their real estate agent to offer $225,000 more than the asking price if they really wanted to buy the house That he wanted.

I remember traveling through Appalachia in the 1950s, passing windowless clapboard cabins, curtains flapping in the wind as barefoot children frolicked on the porch. They may not have been homeless, but they were surely poorly housed. I’ve done my share of winter camping in Colorado and as I pass tent encampments of homeless people today, I know the residents spent many miserable nights last winter. We can and must do better. This does not mean that we should entrust local governments with the task of building public housing.

There is plenty of evidence that bureaucrats make bad developers. In many cities, they struggled to safely manage their housing stock when given responsibility. We don’t need another group of usual suspects whose recommendations will ultimately be ignored. By placing risk with private developers, they will make much better arbiters of what will actually meet stakeholder needs Let go of local barriers to ease the state’s housing crisis those who yearn for a place where they can afford to raise their family.

Colorado will always be an attractive destination for visitors. It is up to us to ensure that the state remains an affordable place to live. It requires us to think differently to meet the needs of each resident. Simply leaving the results to chance corrodes our quality of life as much as theirs.

Miller Hudson is a public affairs consultant and former Colorado legislator.