Jul 26, 2022

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Affordable Housing Policy Forum Recap, Part 2: ADUs, Mobile Homes, Rent Stabilization, & New Development

by | Jul 26, 2022

ADUs and Mobile Homes 

Some homeowners choose to build secondary housing units on existing property, a construction type often referred to as an ADU, or accessory dwelling unit. This type of housing is typically self-contained and smaller in living space but is not considered a separate property that could be sold on its own. ADUs are also known as mother-in-law suites, granny flats, casitas, backyard cottages, garage or basement apartments, etc. Unfortunately, ADU construction is prohibited in many parts of the front range, frustrating affordable housing advocates. 80% of Denver is zoned for single-use housing, removing the ability to even consider expansion of a housing type that could lead to greater density in neighborhoods where it is needed most. 

Traditionally, one of the most affordable housing options in Colorado has been mobile homes. Similar to low-income housing, however, mobile home parks happen to be highly appealing to investors and developers, who view these homes as profitable business investments. However, this investment approach often negates the experiences of those living in these spaces. Not only does housing need to be affordable, but it also needs to be safe, accessible, and functional. Participants from the forum indicated they wanted to see some form of class or training required for landlords to educate them on their rights and responsibilities to public safety. 

 

Rent Stabilization & Other Policy Efforts 

Advocates are keeping an eye on the ARPA funding to ensure local governments are distributing it to places of need. Since ARPA was a one-time funding opportunity, Colorado will be challenged to figure out  funding efforts after the federal money goes out. Some have considered ballot proposals as a source of funding, while others believe government intervention and support is needed. Another alternative to affordable housing is through tax policy. Currently, Colorado subsidizes housing for those at the upper end financially, such as home mortgage interest or tax breaks for homeowners who are seniors. By using tax policy more effectively, however, the state could expand their subsidies to include people who rent their housing, which is a significant amount of the population. Ultimately, Colorado needs more supply of housing to bring market prices down. 

Another advocacy effort discussed at the event has been to enact legislation stabilizing rent prices. While Governor Jared Polis has indicated he will veto any rent stabilization law, participants expressed that advocates must not consider this the end of the conversation. In fact, 74% of Coloradans support limiting a landlord’s ability to make large rent increases. Out of control rent increases could prove disastrous to Colorado’s future economy; certainly, they’re already a key contributor to the rising cost of living in our state. 

New York is one of the few states to enact rent stabilization legislation. As one event attendee involved in eviction defense affirms, it has saved tenants the headache of higher payments. Similarly, Colorado Homes for All (CHA), a housing organization in our state, has intentions to bring forth future policy to repeal the ban on rent control at the state level. As discussed in the forum, CHA hopes to partner with local municipalities to stabilize rent. 

 

Land Ownership & Development 

The history of affordable housing hasn’t always been as intersectional in addressing some of the housing issues as it should be. While there is no “one size fits all” model to affordable housing, there are ways to benefit those typically neglected or pushed aside in these conversations. Advocates voiced their interest in seeing smaller developers or families within neighborhoods create development with their communities in mind.  

Shared equity models were also considered as an alternative option to non-traditional housing. This approach allows for multiple people, families, or community members to own land collectively, rather than involving outside investors. Community-owned land offers unique opportunities for wealth building among communities traditionally shut out of the benefits of a growing economy.  

To those who were able to attend this inaugural Policy Forum event, CCLP thanks you again for joining us in dialogue. We hope you found the discussion lively and gave way to new ideas or concepts about affordable housing. For all who were unable to attend, the event is now available as a recording on CCLP’s YouTube channel.

 

For Part 1: The Event, ARPA, & more, read here.

For Part 3: Attendee questions and resources, read here.

Read more about affordable housing bills passed in 2022 in our Housing Legislation list here.

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HEALTH:
HEALTH FIRST COLORADO (MEDICAID)

To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.

FOOD SECURITY:
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP)

Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.

FOOD SECURITY:
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION PROGRAM FOR WOMEN, INFANTS AND CHILDREN (WIC)

Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.

EARLY LEARNING:
COLORADO CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CCCAP)

Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.