For affordable housing providers, so much about the COVID-19 crisis evokes recollections of the Great Recession of 2008/09, brought on by a massive housing crisis that left thousands of Coloradans in foreclosure and homeless. Out of that financial disaster was the coming together of Colorado housing providers across the continuum to bring federal resources—Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) and the American Recovery Act (ARA) —to Colorado to expand affordable rental, for-sale housing, and nonprofit facilities.
This collaboration lives under the umbrella of the Neighborhood Development Collaborative (NDC), a 501(c)3 community development corporation composed of 15 Colorado affordable housing providers and community development organizations, including ULC. Through the leadership of NDC, in the wake of the Great Recession, a number of community assets were purchased and renovated in the Denver Metro region to address the need. These include ULC’s acquisition and preservation of the Dahlia Apartments and the needed capital improvements at the Tramway Nonprofit Center.
As we face this pandemic with the understanding that “housing is health,” NDC is again working to lead the region to sustainable, proactive solutions to address the affordable housing crisis. Positioned with collective experience and learnings to apply to this current situation, Neighborhood Development Collaborative, along with ULC, Enterprise Community Partners and other NDC members presented a virtual panel discussion on May 8, entitled, “Addressing Affordable Housing Sustainability and Resident Vulnerability in Colorado in the wake of COVID-19.” Experts across the housing continuum discussed lessons learned from the housing crisis and response of 2008/09 as well as some strategic recommendations for our current predicament. A summary can be found here. One of the key points agreed upon is that it’s urgent to act immediately instead of allowing homes to go into foreclosure and for individuals and families to be displaced. Further, sufficient dollars are needed to not only address the crisis for residents but to enable providers to meet the needs of residents now and continue to fill the already existing gaps that existed before COVID-19.
A letter, drafted by NDC to Governor Jared Polis, details a request of total needs to avoid a housing crisis. A minimum of $160M (10% of the State’s $1.6 billion in Federal CARES Act emergency funds) would help ensure Colorado households, making $50K and less and who are the most vulnerable during this pandemic, can stay in their homes with available rental or mortgage assistance.
Joe Rubino wrote a compelling article with perspectives from NDC, ULC, and others. It’s titled, Affordable housing orgs say Coloradans will need at least $291 million in rent and mortgage assistance this year, appearing in Sunday’s Denver Post (yesterday) and lays out the challenge and the solutions put forth by the Collaborative. The question is have we learned and will we be proactive this time around?