Grocery shopping and home buying share some unfortunate similarities these days. If you’re in the market for eggs, for example, you’ll pay 60 percent more for them than last year—and that’s only if you can find them. Housing will also set you back a premium, as the average home price in Colorado rose 5.2 percent last year. And that housing inventory? It’s low.
High prices at the grocery store are palpable and are having an immediate effect on families. But Colorado’s lack of affordable and attainable housing is creating deeper and longer-lasting impacts in the form of homelessness, crime, joblessness, lost tourism, and transportation, to name a few.
Colorado, like most of the country, has a housing crisis with a deficit of affordable, attainable, and available housing. In fact, Colorado has the nation’s seventh-highest underdevelopment rate with a shortage of 127,000 housing units. Along the Front Range, we’re short almost 70,000 units. This crisis didn’t happen overnight, but the enormity of it was exacerbated by the pandemic.
The crisis is hot news, too. Television is full of news stories looking at housing from every angle, while social media has a few million folks all claiming to know what works best. On top of that, legislators this year are considering several housing related bills for things like rent control, property tax reductions and changes in property valuation.
While many of these bills are aimed at increasing the state’s involvement in housing issues, the best solutions start closer to home. Local governments are more uniquely positioned to solve housing issues than the one-size-fits-all approach taken by the state. Your local elected leaders know their communities better than anyone and are working on solutions that fit the specific requirements of Arapahoe County.
This local approach is working.
In Arapahoe County, we’ve been doing the hard work and are seeing success. Last year, for example, the county approved a development plan to rezone the Potter’s House church site in Four Square Mile area. When completed, the 32-acre site will have 345 new apartment units, 168 paired homes and a five-acre public park. Even more recently, the City of Sheridan approved a development plan for the former Bonsai Nursery site that will bring 149 much needed affordable housing units to the area.
County commissioners, mayors and city/town councils are committed to solving the affordable housing crisis and are working together to develop solutions. This work can be supplemented by statewide efforts to help drive success even further.
How will we do it? Counties and municipalities have an extensive set of tools to help solve the housing crisis, most notably the use of land use policies that can be adjusted quickly to affect changes on multiple fronts. Land use can include things like conservation and development plans, subdivision controls, zoning regulations, and the establishment of special districts. In plain terms, it means adjusting rules and regulations in specific ways to smartly manage growth.
Land use tools and activities are better suited for the unique and diverse populations that exist at the city/town and county level where they can be implemented and evaluated much quicker than through statewide initiatives.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll introduce you to the successes we’ve had with housing initiatives. We’re partnering with our municipalities to highlight approaches that are working, and we’ll discuss other options and how they may affect you and your community. Of note, we’ll host a Telephone Town Hall on Thursday, March 30 at 6:30 p.m. where you’ll hear more from elected leaders on the housing crisis and how we’re best equipped to make progress. We hope you’ll listen.