Howard: In support of housing stability
During my 16 years at Habitat for Humanity, I have seen first-hand the difference a stable home can make. A home is the most critical piece of infrastructure for a family — the ability to work where you live has broad impacts on our local economy and fabric of our society.
When families have a stable living situation, children excel in school, in some cases becoming the first in their family to go to college, and parents advance in their careers and are committed to their community.
Two years ago, Habitat for Humanity launched the Cost of Home national advocacy campaign, a five-year initiative to increase access to affordable housing through policy. As I reflect on the campaign’s first two years, I am excited about the progress we have made at the local, state and federal levels to increase access for families and individuals.
The shortage of affordable homes in our valley is pervasive, but we are working to change that. During the 2021 Colorado Legislative Session, four bills related to increasing access to affordable and equitable housing were proposed. They all passed.
House bill 1271 builds a menu of offerings that provides more opportunities for affordable housing builders and reduces costs associated with development. House bill 1028 creates a transparent report for tracking new and current investments to increase affordable housing options, helping to ensure that state and federal investments are going to the entire housing continuum. House bill 1134 reports tenant rent payment info to credit agencies, so residents can begin to build credit. House bill 1200 expands financial literacy in high school.
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This feels like a monumental step towards recognizing the challenges communities across Colorado are facing, so let’s take a moment to celebrate and then focus on where we go from here.
Housing out of reach
Here in Eagle County, throughout Colorado and the United States, housing is out of reach for far too many families (1 in 7 in Colorado). The pandemic exacerbated this problem, and now, there are historic lows of entry-level homes available.
This further stymies the continuum of housing stability. Families who may be ready to move from a rental cannot; those who are in starter homes are staying due to the high cost of purchasing a new home. As developers are interested in increasing affordable housing stock, financial and red-tape barriers can get in the way of breaking ground. The passage of these bills at the state level is a step toward increasing the number of housing units available, which is imperative for our workforce.
We are grateful that our state representatives are listening and working to create innovative solutions to ease the crunch and create more housing. But now it’s on us: the community, individuals, governments and nonprofits to build an environment that fosters growth and collaboration.
How can you help?
Partnerships create progress — we’re excited to be teaming again with Eagle County Schools to build educator housing. We are proud of this unique partnership built on common values.
This alliance unlocked support from additional community organizations, including the towns of Gypsum and Eagle, and Eagle County, allowing us to collectively make a larger community impact. Working together creates a robust conversation and proactive solutions.
If you are a developer with a shovel-ready project, work with your local government to access funding created by HB 1271 and/or HB 1329, which allocates $550 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to create the affordable housing and home ownership case fund at the State Treasury. Let’s work together to ensure housing is built in Eagle County with these funds.
Don’t be the shy. We urge you to attend meetings, send letters and emails, speak up and have your voice heard. We are fortunate to have elected leaders who are accessible and want to be part of the solution.
We will continue to work with our local, state and federal elected officials to advocate for a continuum of housing solutions. We are passionate about increasing affordable housing. Our door is always open to brainstorm creative local partnerships that will help us build more homes.
Habitat for Humanity will continue to create affordable home ownership opportunities in Eagle County. Join us to be part of the solution.
Elyse Howard is the director of development at Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley, where she also oversees advocacy efforts to help increase housing stability for families in Eagle County. In addition, she on the board of directors and legislative affairs committee for Habitat for Humanity Colorado. She was honored to testify in support of both HB 1271 and HB 1134 during the 2021 legislative session.