Jan 27, 2022

Margaret "Maggie" Lea served as Grants Manager for Mile High Connects until its closure in 2022. In this capacity she was responsible for advancing MHC's collaborative work through data & evaluation, communications, and collective support and investment, and she played a key role in cultivating and sustaining local and regional partnerships.

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Denver’s Expanding Housing Affordability

by | Jan 27, 2022

The burden of owning or renting a house in the Denver metro region is heavy for many residents as wage growth has not kept pace with the increased cost of living.  With Denver rents skyrocketing, renters must make at least $27.50 per hour, which is in stark contrast with Colorado’s minimum wage of $12.32 per hour.

In May, the Colorado legislature voted to approve House Bill 2021-1117. This bill was advocated for by numerous partners and advocates to replace a Colorado Supreme Court decision that once prohibited such “inclusionary housing” practices and allows local governments to require rental housing developers to provide affordable units in new development projects. Here is a sample of what is included in the bill:

  • Cities can now require affordable housing to be included in all new for-sale and for-rent housing.
  • Requires local governments to offset costs, relax zoning restrictions and provide alternatives, recognizing that inclusionary housing creates higher costs on multi-family developments.
  • Requires local governments to provide some options to allow for one or more alternatives to the construction of new affordable housing units

Once passed, the city and county of Denver lept into action. Their Community Planning and Development department drafted a policy proposal to ensure that as new housing is built, new affordable housing is created.

The Expanding Housing Affordability (or EHA) is designed to be complementary to the Department of Housing Stability’s (HOST)’s efforts to address Denver’s housing needs, namely the production of new affordable units in mixed-income communities by combining affordable homes into market-rate development. HOST has faced challenges in creating truly mixed-income communities over the years, and this newly passed but long fought-for legislation has enabled Denver and other localities across the state to mandate inclusionary housing.

MHC brought together key stakeholders, including Brad Wienig, Director of Catalytic Partnerships with HOST, and Analiese Hock, Principal City Planner with City and County of Denver, to discuss the purpose of EHA and provide some initial feedback on the proposal  As part of our collaborative call to action, MHC submitted a letter of recommendations (posted below) to the City and County of Denver.

While we have a long way to go on addressing the housing shortage for our low-income neighbors, we celebrate the years-long community organizing and policy advocacy efforts that led to the passing of HB21-1117, which allowed localities to mandate affordable housing or equal alternatives in new developments. Keep up with Denver’s EHA as it makes its way through council this spring. 



Recent articles

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.