Homelessness is growing faster in Colorado than in any other state. 88% of Coloradans say rising housing costs are an extremely serious problem. Half of all Colorado renters are cost burdened by rent.* It’s clear that the housing crisis in Colorado is worsening—and now, for the first time ever, affordable housing will be on the ballot statewide in Colorado. 

The “Make Colorado Affordable” proposal, presented by Gary Community Ventures and endorsed by dozens of Colorado organizations, recently gained enough signatures to place it on Colorado’s state ballot in November. The proposition, also called Proposition 123, would require the state to spend a certain amount of money (approximately $300 million every year) on affordable housing and other housing-related causes. Local communities would be able to apply for the funds as long as at least 3% of housing created in that community is affordable*. The measure would not directly raise taxes; it is funded by a tenth of a percent of taxes that the State already collects. The money collected for the fund would be exempt from the TABOR limit, meaning that Coloradans might see a reduction of about $40 in their TABOR refund check in the first year and $80 in the second year. 

The proposition allocates money from the fund for six different programs: land banking, creation and preservation of affordable rental housing, debt financing for affordable housing projects, affordable homeownership, homelessness relief, and increasing local planning capacity. 

“To solve our housing crisis in Colorado, it will take a long-term plan, and that means a long-term investment,” says Aaron Miripol, President and CEO of Urban Land Conservancy.  “One-time grants and pandemic relief money can only go so far in solving this systemic issue.” Local governments, nonprofits, and community organizations need the funding stability that this proposition provides to plan for the future, and more than that, this proposition focuses on funding a full spectrum of solutions, so that unlike much of the recent federal and state funding, it’s a treatment plan, not a band-aid. 

This is the first time the State would make a heavy investment in homelessness relief programs, which would be welcome news for unhoused people and advocates who have wondered what will happen when the pandemic relief money runs out. This is also the first time State funds would be made available specifically for land banking, a strategy that Urban Land Conservancy uses to combat gentrification and safeguard affordability for long-term community benefit. Also, extremely notable is that all affordable housing developments that make use of funds from this measure would have to remain permanently affordable . Approximately $300 million in reliable, yearly funding for the programs defined in the measure would not only help ease the burden of currently skyrocketing housing costs, but help us to address the root causes of housing inequality, and allow us to create a more just and equitable housing system. 

It’s no secret that the United States of America is in a housing crisis that stretches across the nation and that Colorado is on the frontlines of this crisis. But now Coloradans have been granted an opportunity to lead the way in creating the solution. Urban Land Conservancy believes that Colorado is for everyone, not just the wealthy, and we are proud to support the proposition to Make Colorado Affordable. 

* Sources: Axios Denver, Make Colorado Affordable, Denver Post

**Affordable is defined by the state as affordable to a household earning under 60% of the area median income so that the household doesn’t spend more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities.