ULI Colorado Blog

Affordable Housing

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ULI Colorado’s new White Paper, “Overcoming Barriers to Affordable Housing in Colorado,” is now available. Our first original policy publication in a new series, “Overcoming Barriers” was researched and written by Denver writer Eric Peterson, who interviewed more than 30 experts to produce findings and recommendations.

Read it here: Overcoming Barriers to Affordable Housing

While noting Colorado’s housing costs have reached crisis stage for income levels from the poorest to upper-middle class, the 20-page report culls success stories from communities as diverse as Aspen, Boulder, Denver, Summit County, and Westminster. The report provides tools for affordable housing advocates and developers, architects, planners, public officials, environmentalists, and neighborhood advocates. Austin, Boston, and Portland are also measured as “peer cities.”

A few highlights:

–Low-income affordable housing tax credits (LIHTC) continue to be the most powerful tool to attract private investment and get the most homes built, although there are not enough to go around to support the need for affordable housing

–Innovative new tools like Community Land Trusts, affordable housing pools, investment funds to preserve housing, and density bonuses for affordable housing are showing early promise or will soon be tested in the marketplace

–Special funds like the regional TOD Fund are proving successful but need more support

–Partnerships with agencies and institutions to repurpose their surplus or excess properties may prove effective

–New affordable housing can actually provide the impetus to start the revitalization process in communities that seek and need economic development

–Denver’s new $15 million annual fund for housing shows promise but must be leveraged to be effective

–There is no one solution or “magic bullet”—measures to finance, design, approve and construct affordable housing must be combined creatively

–Measures like fees on development (aka Impact or Linkage Fees) and Inclusionary Housing Ordinances (IHOs) remain controversial

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Major challenges to providing affordable housing include:

  • Colorado’s population continues to grow by 100,000 a year but the pace of housing production is not keeping up
  • The rising costs of housing far outpaces rising incomes
  • Construction defects lawsuits continue to depress new production of condos, removing a critical step in the housing ladder
  • The cost of land and construction is rising rapidly
  • Neighborhood opposition to new affordable housing (or any increase in density) remains a roadblock
  • Preservation of existing affordable housing stock is critical as 3,000 affordable homes a year come off deed restrictions

The report grew out of fact-finding workshops conducted by our housing committee (chaired by Lynn Crist, Chad Holtzinger, and Chuck Perry, with James McMurray as lead volunteer). It was funded by a $20,000 Urban Innovation Grant from ULI Foundation, which additional funding from Perry Rose LLC and Shopworks Architecture.

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