Rocky Mountain Chapter

Affordable Housing Trust Fund Update

 

Bill Myers, Affordable Housing Issue Liaison

Rocky Mountain Chapter, Air Quality Chair

Sierra Club,  Challenge to Sprawl Campaign Committee priority campaign member

 

 

The creation of affordable housing, defined as housing consuming no more than 30% of a family’s income, has been a continued Sierra Club national and chapter priority for several years.  Providing affordable housing is the number one priority of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and is being addressed nationally by the Sierra Club endorsed

National Housing Trust Fund legislation sponsored by Sen. John Kerry (Mass) and Rep. Bernard Sanders (Vt).  Both Rep. Udall and Rep. DeGette are cosponsors of this legislation, while the rest of Colorado’s congressional delegation remains opposed to creating this housing trust fund.

 

Affordable housing provides connections to transit, builds communities, and reduces air and water pollution from long work and lifestyle commutes, and provides major environmental benefits.  Currently, more than 80% of the teachers in Douglas County cannot afford to live in their county.  On the west slope, counties such as Lake (Leadville) have more than 70% of their population commute to jobs outside their county (usually Breckenridge and Vail) creating greater air and water pollution, excess need for roads, and community stresses caused by long commutes.

 

What’s New and Old about Affordable Housing

 

A 39 member coalition of conservation, community redevelopment, housing groups, faith-based and progressive organizations have united since 2000 to form the Colorado Affordable Housing Trust Fund coalition.  The goal is a $15 million statewide affordable housing trust that will provide housing for people earning up to 80% of area median income ($48K in the metro Denver area). The Sierra Club sits as a member of the Steering Committee of this organization.

 

Legislative Success – Governor’s Vetoes

Housing advocates and the Sierra Club failed and succeeded last session.

The Sierra Club testified in favor of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, but this bill died in House Appropriations.  The Sierra Club testified in favor of creation of a Metropolitan Affordable Housing District.  This bill was defeated in the House.  Later in the session, due to Sierra Club/Colorado Coalition of the Homeless’s lobbying efforts, it was re-introduced by Sen. Rob Hernandez in the Senate, where it passed with wide bipartisan support.  It died in the House Local Government committee, with Rep. Glenn Scott (R-Wtr)) casting the deciding negative vote.

 

The one success was a baseline increase of the Division of Housing’s budget from $2.6 million to $2.9 million.  This divided the legislature during the budget debate.  Governor Owens had supported an increase in the budget to $4 million.  Once the session ended, however, Governor Bill (flip-flop) Owens line-item vetoed the entire affordable housing budget, eliminating affordable housing for 2002-3.

 

The coalition, and the Sierra Club, intend to pursue the creation of an affordable housing trust fund this coming legislative session, with better results.

 

For further information, or to help provide legislative support for affordable housing, contact Sierra Club housing advocates:  Bill Myers, 303-935-6810, billmyer@infi.net or Environmental Justice Chair Kathy Glatz, kj130@juno.com

 

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