The 2022 state legislative session saw the largest investment in affordable housing ever made in Colorado, with $428 million in funding approved and five bipartisan bills targeting various aspects of the statewide affordable housing crisis.
On Monday, Alison George, the state’s director of housing, led a discussion on affordable housing at the Avon Public Library, and met with residents, local government officials and nonprofits to highlight the opportunities these new laws offer. George is visiting towns across Colorado to give this presentation as part of the state’s Summer 2022 Participation and Outreach Tour in the Housing Division.
Representative Dylan Roberts, a Democrat from Avon and chair of the Affordable Housing Conversion Task Force, and State Senator Kerry Donovan, a Democrat from Vail, co-led the presentation with George, sharing ways they advocated for meeting the needs of rural mountain communities throughout the legislative session .
An investment for generations
The US bailout bill gave Colorado more than $500 million To meet the housing needs of communities affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency. Although housing has been a top priority in Colorado for many years, the influx of federal dollars is enabling the state to move forward with affordable housing initiatives, creating what George described as a “generational investment” that will have a noticeable impact on the housing landscape for decades to come.
One of the most important bills George has highlighted is HB22-1304, which allocates $178 million in grants for housing developments and initiatives. Local governments and nonprofit community partners will be able to apply for grants to fund impact projects, and all funds must be distributed by the end of 2024, as required by the US Bailout Act. Grant applications will open this fall, and the state housing department will be responsible for administering the grants.
Roberts was a major sponsor of the bill, and advocated an additional clause ensuring that 50% of the funding would be for use by rural and rural resort communities through 2023. At the end of 2023, any unspent money would go back to the public pool, though Roberts said he was confident that Rural communities will be able to benefit at the full 50%. George encouraged Eagle County local entities to begin preparing for the grant application process now, to attract funding as it becomes available.
Some attendees at Monday’s community meeting expressed concerns about the availability of time, talent and funding to support extensive grant writing to access funds, but George said HB22-1304 also provides financial support for the grant writing process, even out of playing field for smaller communities that don’t maintain grant writers in between. employees. The country is also improving its Technical Guide to Affordable Housing to help communities better understand the development process and the myriad of resources available to them.
Another large influx of cash will come from the new $150 million revolving loan fund created by SB22-159. These funds will provide low- and below-market interest loan financing for proposed projects, and are available to for-profit private developers as well as local governments and non-profit organizations.
All of these state money puts decisions about where and what to develop in the hands of local actors, and Eagle County is well positioned to access funding through Bold Housing Moves programs already active in the community. The funding also expands opportunities to approve new developments and can take advantage of the public-private partnerships that are actively sought after by the county’s housing district authority.
In addition to these general use funds, there are a number of bills targeting specific housing issues that are becoming prominent in the state. SB22-160 Created a $35 million loan program to help, protect, and maintain mobile home parks and their residents, while HB22-1287 It expands state protections for residents that make it more difficult for landowners to raise rents, sell to outside buyers or evict homeowners, among other programs.
HB22-1282 $40 million is earmarked for the creation and implementation of the Innovative Housing Initiative Program, which will encourage the use and implementation of modular construction in the state. Modular homes speed up the construction process, an important factor in mountain communities where the time frame available for construction is limited to the summer months.
On top of $428 million in affordable housing funds, the state is also spending $105 million to create a homelessness response grant program in Colorado. The money will fund affordable rent and property assistance, recovery programs, education and job opportunities, and many other proven strategies for reducing homelessness.
All housing legislation passed in the 2022 legislative session can be accessed in detail on the Colorado Department of Local Affairs website. Visit cdola.colorado.gov for more information.