COVID-19 and Colorado’s Housing Challenges
One of the most challenging issues Colorado faces to its continued growth is the ever-rising cost of home affordability, especially in the Denver metro region. The cornerstone of the American Dream is being able to afford a home and I am committed to ensuring that is possible for all Coloradans.
This challenge is exacerbated by the economic impact of COVID-19 on Colorado’s housing market. Individuals already struggling with their monthly rent or mortgage are now facing potential eviction or foreclosure due to job loss and the economic impact of this crisis. Our homeless population is facing an even more dire shortage of resources.
We can also not lose sight of a long-term plan for Colorado’s future that provides opportunity for more Coloradans to afford a home that allows for stability and financial opportunity and a place where they can live their version of the American Dream.
Provide Rent and Mortgage Relief to Coloradans
Colorado’s legislature must ensure that legislation is passed ensuring that rent and mortgage assistance programs are effectively allocated to Coloradans and courts are empowered to pause eviction and foreclosure proceedings as necessary. This pandemic has created previously unimaginable financial challenges for Coloradans and Colorado must provide temporary relief from consequences for non-payment of rent or mortgage payments.
Colorado currently ranks towards the bottom of renter protections during the ongoing crisis and I support a temporary pause for non-emergency evictions and foreclosures until stay-at-home orders are lifted. We must also ensure that emergency rental and mortgage assistance programs are sufficiently funded and that credit scores of Coloradans are not immediately impacted for non-payment. State law should contain a grace period of repayment before Landlords or Lenders can take action to remove those expressing a willingness to timely pay.
Treat Our Homeless With Dignity
Colorado’s homeless population has faced some of the most difficult consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. Without the stability of a place to quarantine, our homeless population is at a high risk of contracting COVID-19. We as a state must show empathy for this vulnerable population and ensure they are treated with dignity. While Denver has opened a large scale 24/7 shelter and is offering short term hotel or motel stays, the entire state must provide resources to ensure our homeless population can safely shelter in place and help lessen the spread of COVID-19. We must also be prepared to assist these individuals as they are forced to leave a large scale shelter or temporary motel in order to transition them to a location where they can live with dignity and continue to have a roof over their head.
While Colorado offers various first-time home buyer assistance programs, such as down payment assistance or deferred second mortgage programs, most of these assistance programs require repayment and have very strict qualification provisions. Investing in Coloradans is an investment in Colorado’s economy and even as we face fiscal challenges in the short term, we must provide first time home buyer credit programs for low to middle income individuals and families that are forgivable after a certain period of time in Colorado and have qualification provisions that are attainable to first-time home buyers. The University of Colorado offers a successful program to its employees and this can be expanded to other employment sectors of our state as well.
Prefabricated homes present an alternative option that is cost-effective, energy efficient, and quicker to construct. I am supportive of legislation that helps to increase the use of Colorado based prefabricated construction companies as a viable alternative to stick-built construction. These homes help lower housing costs and provide opportunities for Coloradans to afford a quality, energy efficient home, at a lower price than stick-built construction. I support ensuring that construction code requirements are up to date state-wide to account for a growth in prefabricated home construction.
Community Land Trusts
Community land trusts provide a great way for housing costs to stabilize in a market that is seeing exorbitant increases across the state. Community land trusts provide an opportunity for occupants of homes within the land trust to build equity and at the same time contribute to the community land trust that provides them an opportunity to have a home of their own. Community land trusts provide permanent affordability and guarantee the surrounding community that there will always be an opportunity for those that may not otherwise be able to afford a home to do so.
As a legislator, I will introduce legislation that ensures that community land trusts are able to benefit from real estate tax exemptions and minimize the red tape that prevents community land trusts from efficiently bridging the gap between rental housing and traditional homeownership.