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Howard: The high cost of home

Elyse Howard
Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley advocates for policy change to increase affordable housing options

Elyse Howard

The high cost of home has been a fact of life in Eagle County for years — and it’s just as much of a problem around the United States. Advocating for policies that will increase access to and supply of affordable homes in our community is an important strategy. Through our five-year Cost of Home Campaign, Habitat for Humanity is focused on finding collaborative solutions and promoting policies to improve access to affordable homes for 10 million individuals nationwide.

Housing affordability is one of the biggest issues facing our state. According to Shift Research Labs, one in seven Colorado households spend more than half their income on housing. No matter the region — rural, resort, urban and suburban — between 2012 and 2019, Colorado fell from being one of the most affordable states to one of the least affordable states in the country based on median income to median pricing, according to Colorado Association of Realtors.



While the economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic further increased housing instability, it has also increased creative thought and collaborative solutions to aid Coloradans struggling to find affordable places to call home.

Habitat for Humanity builds in 45 communities across the state. Together under the banner of Habitat for Humanity Colorado, we advocate for policies that will increase supply and preservation of affordable homes, increase access to equitable credit and advance racial equity. Across the state and here in Eagle County, we are focused on advocating for a continuum of housing solutions that promote social and economic mobility.



The 2021 Colorado legislative session kicked off in January, and so far, it has been a busy one for housing advocates. Together with state legislators and housing stakeholders, Habitat for Humanity Colorado has introduced a group of bills aimed at improving the state’s long-term home ownership opportunities and economic growth. The bills address myriad of different barriers to home ownership including credit building and financial literacy, incentives for local governments to grow housing stock and improved state reporting to track how state housing funds are spent.

Highlights of the recently introduced bills include:

HB21-1271 – “Department Of Local Affairs Innovative Affordable Housing Strategies,” sponsored by Rep. Julie McCluskie, Rep. Iman Jodeh and Sen. Julie Gonzales. The bill was introduced as part of the 2021 Colorado Stimulus Plan, which spends $700 million of state dollars to speed recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuild a “more just and resilient Colorado.”

Included in the package of bills are three bills that address housing affordability and homelessness — further highlighting the ripple effect of stable housing on families, communities and local economies. HB21-1271 is one of those bills and will provide funding to local governments to help jump start development of affordable housing in their communities. It acknowledges the important role land use and zoning play in every Colorado community to spur or stunt affordable housing development.

Currently, Eagle County is working to update its land use and zoning regulations as well as the Eagle County Comprehensive plan — this is an opportunity for you to be part of the conversation to increase affordable housing development locally—a dire need.

HB21-1134 – “Report Tenant Rent Payment Information To Credit Agencies,” sponsored by Rep. Naquetta Ricks, Rep. Mary Bradfield and Sen. Jeff Bridges, establishes a statewide pilot program that will enable the reporting of positive rental payments to consumer credit bureaus. The bill will make the process of purchasing a home more equitable by enabling underserved communities to establish positive credit.

Established positive credit allows prospective home buyers access to home loans; positive credit opens access to lower interest rates and less variable loans. Lower rates allow people to afford more home — which is important here in Eagle County where housing at an affordable price point is in short supply. If approved, HB21-1134 will increase minority home ownership and close the racial wealth gap by helping families build, and better understand, the importance of positive credit.

HB21-1028 – “Annual Public Report Affordable Housing,” sponsored by Rep. Shannon Bird, Rep. Janice Rich, Sen. Tammy Story and Sen. Rob Woodward, requires the Division of Housing to provide an annual report on how their funds are spent; the total amount of money received from federal, state or other public or private sources, as well as the total amount expended for the provision of affordable housing.

This bill is critical to our goal to create a continuum of housing solutions — it will offer insight into funding allocations between ownership and rental projects as well as how funding is allocated across the state.

At this point in the 2021 legislative session, I am excited to see so many important discussions around housing affordability and stability happening at the state Capitol. I am grateful for the leadership of our legislators as they look for creative solutions to alleviate the high cost of home that negatively impacts so many Coloradans. We are excited to be part of the solution to make home ownership a reality for thousands of families in Colorado.

For more information on the 2021 Colorado legislative session or to follow the progress of these bills, visit coloradocenturyofopportunity.com.

Elyse Howard is the Director of Development for Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley. The organization will break ground on its 100th home this summer, providing housing stability for more than 300 children in Eagle County. Learn more at habitatvailvalley.org.


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