Urban Land Conservancy celebrates the achievements of our partnerships that create and preserve nonprofit facilities and affordable housing for communities in metro Denver. ULC’s Monthly Partner Spotlight is awarded to partners who demonstrate the value of collaboration, furthering our mission to improve the lives of Metro Denver residents through our real estate investments and community assets.

Congratulations to our April 2018 Partner Spotlight of the Month: Housing Colorado!

Housing Colorado is a 501(c)3 membership-based organization  that acts as a resource for affordable housing professionals by providing support to the affordable housing community through professional advocacy, issue expertise and networking opportunities. Housing Colorado’s mission is to act as a, “unified voice promoting the preservation and production of quality affordable housing to low and moderate income Coloradoans through state wide education and advocacy in order to build a strong economy and healthy community.” Through their knowledge, active representation and voice, they have supported numerous policy measures to increase Colorado’s affordable housing supply and change legislation to better represent the state’s lower income population.

Officially launched in 2005 following the merger of Colorado Affordable Housing Partnership and Colorado Rural Housing NOW!, Housing Colorado is the public policy advocate for affordable housing for nearly 15 years, and has made great strides in supporting legislation for the preservation and production of affordable housing across the state. Housing Colorado’s policy priorities range from identifying a permanent source of funding for affordable housing in the State, to education programming for the prevention of foreclosures and displacement. You can see their full list of policy priorities here. Housing Colorado has been a major proponent this year for Senate Bill 007, the Affordable Housing Tax Credit. The bill extends the time frame Colorado Housing and Finance Authority  (CHFA) can allocate affordable housing tax credits and if passed (the bill was recently sent to Appropriations in March), this would be a huge victory for the organization and for Colorado. Tax credits are the number one producer of affordable rental housing.

“The statewide tax credit program has been very successful since its inception and has proven to be a tremendously helpful resource in increasing production of more affordable housing units. To provide a consistent and reliable source of funding, we believe an extension of this program until 2024 would be a great help to our state’s current resources,” explained Sara Reynolds, Executive Director of Housing Colorado explained. “This program is worth continued investment, and we hope that the legislature will pass this bill this session.”

In an effort to strengthen, improve and grow the affordable housing industry, Housing Colorado focuses on three primary goals: Education, Networking and Advocacy. To keep both the general public and affordable housing advocates alike educated and up to date on public policy, they host events throughout the year (such as the Eagle Awards Gala and the Legislative Luncheon), hold the Housing NOW annual conference each fall and provide necessary funding to research initiatives. One such project was Shift Research Lab’s 2018 Report: Exploring Colorado’s Housing Affordability Challenges in All of Their Complexity. The report, which details the many factors contributing to Colorado’s housing crisis, was primarily funded by Housing Colorado. Emily Nilsen, the Membership and Communication Specialist at Housing Colorado, explained that in an effort to unite opposing views, providing tangible data was the best solution.

“We met with Jennifer Newcomer of Shift Research Lab in 2017 and told her we wanted to ask the hard questions,” Nilsen explained. “And with data and evidence we could then tackle those questions from a variety of angles to create more engagement opportunities from a public policy perspective.”

In addition to education, Housing Colorado hosts a variety of networking events and panels each month. Topics range from young professional meet and greets to panels tackling solutions to the housing crisis. With a significant focus being advocacy, the heart of Housing Colorado’s mission to act as a unified voice through statewide education and advocacy, this plays a central role in their day to day operations. Nilsen explained that Housing Colorado’s Legislative Committee helps drive the organization strategically by steering bills that Housing Colorado will or will not advocate for each session.

In 2015, Housing Colorado launched “Live Affordably Colorado,” an advocacy and educational campaign to help frame the conversation around Colorado’s housing crisis. Since its inception, the campaign has released PSAs, published reports and ultimately acted as a dependable resource to share facts and data related to affordable housing. The toolkit addresses the challenges many renters in Colorado face, the impact this has on local economies and the current gap in affordable housing. The organization attributes the problem to a lack of funding, as Colorado is one of the last remaining states without a permanent source of funding dedicated to affordable housing.

Nilsen said that supporting legislation to secure a permanent source of funding at the state level is Housing Colorado’s number one goal, and this is high on the list of priorities at Urban Land Conservancy as well. Colorado is one of the top 10 states experiencing rapid population growth, which places stress on our infrastructure, housing, and overall quality of life. With upwards of 100,000 Denver residents paying more than 30% of their income on housing, the threat of displacement is widespread. In Shift’s report, it was stated that, “housing unaffordability is becoming the most significant threat to family economic security in Colorado.” It is because of this that we stand in solidarity with Housing Colorado to establish a statewide fund, and encourage you to support this effort as well.

Congratulations to our April Partner of the Month! We are very grateful to have a strong partner and voice representing the affordable housing community, and are thankful for your dedication to advocacy and education. We look forward to a continued partnership advancing policy and opportunities related to affordable housing so all residents in Colorado have a safe and affordable place to call home. To learn more about Housing Colorado, please visit their website: https://housingcolorado.site-ym.com/

We were also excited to attend Housing Colorado’s annual Eagle Awards Gala on April 26th, “which honor the individuals, projects and programs that soar to new heights in their work to ensure safe, decent, affordable housing for all Coloradans.” We would like to take this chance to highlight Beloved Community Tiny Home Village, which took home an Eagle Award! Congratulations to all those involved in creating this innovative approach to using vacant owned land to provide housing to those experiencing homelessness. Urban Land Conservancy provided the land at 38th and Walnut for $1 a month, and we are so grateful to be a part of such an innovative and exciting development.