People hit the bricks to draw attention to affordable housing issues | VailDaily.com

People hit the bricks to draw attention to affordable housing issues

Kathy Heicher
Kathy Heicher/Enterprise
ALL |

Blake Chambliss is taking steps to draw attention to the need for affordable housing in Colorado. He’s taking 1.6 million steps, to be exact.

Chambliss ” carrying a yellow flag, wearing a backpack, and accompanied by some fellow political activists ” passed through Eagle last week as part of an 800-mile walk intended to highlight what he calls Colorado’s affordable housing crisis. The walk began in Denver on June 5 and has visited communities as far away as Eagle, Fort Collins, Breckenridge, Grand Junction, Alamosa, Pueblo, and Colorado Springs.

Chambliss, a political activist who has been lobbying for affordable housing for the past 35 years, said his “People’s Walk for Housing Justice” will reach over 60 communities. He will stop in 40 of them to hold evening forums on affordable-housing.

In his walk across the state, he has observed housing costs in Colorado has forced people to move and leave their communities., Chambliss said. The high cost of housing also hinders local businesses from expanding, and hurts the ability for new businesses to come in, heid.

“The high cost of housing has sucked the life out of our communities, because we don’t have the money to support our local businesses and the people who work there,” said Chambliss. “We need to take this opportunity to begin taking the steps toward rebuilding our communities.”

The intended impact of his “People’s Walk” is to encourage citizens of the state to take action and to promote some of the tools available to help communities build affordable housing. One concept Chambliss and his supporters are pushing for is the creation of a statewide housing trust fund ” an effort that would likely involve voter approval.

“If the state Legislature can’t get it done, it may require a citizen’s initiative,” said Chambliss during a rest stop in Eagle. He estimated that a housing trust question could hit the state ballot in 2006.

While Chablis was treading through Eagle County on U.S. Highway 6, he was walking amidst some of the highest-priced housing in the state.

“The cost of housing in Eagle County certainly is one of the most expensive in the state,” he said.

Still, he and fellow members of the Housing Justice organization said they were pleased at some of the housing being built in the valley. He mentioned specifically the county’s Miller Ranch project in Edwards and expressed an interest in the town of Eagle’s inclusionary zoning regulation, which requires new developments to provide a specified percentage of affordable housing.

He said he was also pleased to learn that Habitat for Humanity has been active recently with projects in Eagle.

Chambliss said that responsibility for affordable housing should not be placed on the backs of developers, but rather should be developed as part of a partnership with the community. “Every community is unique … housing solutions come from within the community,” said Chambliss.

Berkeley Rich, board president for Housing Justice, said the lack of affordable housing affects every community in the state.

“The common theme is that people who work here cannot afford to live here. That’s true in Golden, Greeley, Sterling and the Vail Valley,” Rich said.

Chambliss, who also served on the committee that helped design Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon, said he hopes his walk will raise awareness about housing issues. In turn, he hopes political leaders, church leaders and citizens will make connections and then go to work on solutions, he said.

“I hope because of this walk we can begin to make sure that affordable housing is being built and that we begin to look at solutions at the local and state level,” he said.