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Lack of affordable housing reaches ‘crisis proportions’ in Colorado Springs

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- A relatively new group told the City Council that the limited availability of affordable housing in the city is now at a crisis, and requires more drastic and immediate action.

At least two council members agreed with the assessment Monday provided by the Affordable Housing Collaborative during a council work session.

The AHC is a group of five people who formed in 2019 to do more in-depth research into the city's lack of affordable housing -- defined as housing that costs more than 30% of a person's annual income.

Affordable housing, according to the AHC, is limited because of population growth, lack of housing availability, increased costs of building materials, growing costs for rental properties and single-family homes, and a reluctance by many developers to consider building other types of housing such as condominiums and townhomes.

Fees charged to developers and homebuilders by local governments is another factor mentioned in the affordable housing crunch.

Although the city is meeting Mayor John Suthers' 2018 goal of building at least 1,000 affordable housing units annually, the AHC is going beyond existing channels to get more individuals involved in resolving the crisis.

"We'd like to get individuals, businesses and institutions that own land to donate it," AHC member Randy Scott said. "Then we can connect them with a developer and build an affordable housing project. Having the land donated keeps the cost of a project more affordable."

The AHC said that two issues are affecting public perception of affordable housing projects: Many people are unaware that a problem exists because it doesn't affect them or their neighborhood; or they believe that living near a project will negatively affect surrounding property values.

"We've studied that extensively and we haven't found any project that decreased nearby property values," Scott said.

Scott's wife, B.J., is also a member of the collaborative.

"We need to stop doing thinks because we like them , or they make money or they're what we've always done," she said. "We need to be open-minded and do things that are best for our community. Most of our land is devoted to single-family homes. Our economy can't maintain that. We need to look at best-practices solutions in other cities. Consider other types of projects. Maybe build housing on vacant retail property."

Council members Yolanda Avila and Richard Skorman agreed with the AHC's sense of urgency.

"How do we support this housing?" said Avila. "How do we get to that level where we actually make things happen? The waiting list for affordable housing is long already."

"I don't want it to be burdened by bureaucracy too much," Skorman said. "I think that we really have to get moving on this. We should consider this an emergency, so that we're not having the same meeting a year or two from now."

The AHC said that its next step is hosting a housing summit this year that will focus on solutions to the crisis.

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.


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