A Message from the Chief Executive Officer
Last month I wrote about the affordable housing crisis in Colorado where we face a growing deficit of housing units of all types, the impact of which falls most heavily on lower income families.
Like so many of the challenges we face as a society, the answer is not a single solution, but rather a multifaceted approach involving federal, state and local policy changes. At the local level, a “housing friendly” political and regulatory environment must be promoted. YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) must replace NIMBY (Not In My Backyard). Municipalities should make it easier to bring projects from concept to completion by streamlining approval processes and creating incentives for their staff to succeed at getting projects approved. These moves will require greater public awareness of the detrimental impact of inadequate housing on all members of a community as well as political leadership.
At the state level, political and financial pressure can be applied to localities to help meet regional housing goals. Among other things, this will require local jurisdictions to streamline the entitlement and permitting processes so that creating housing is the central goal. Once a project is deemed to fall within regional planning goals and is determined to meet local zoning requirements, the approval process should be fast-tracked. There is no question that the community’s voice needs to be heard as part of the approval process, just as environmental considerations need to be factored into the equation. Too often these are weaponized to stall projects, adding time and costs to projects, which the buyers or renters ultimately bear, assuming the project even gets built.
Here in Colorado, our two most important housing agencies are CHFA (Colorado Housing and Finance Authority) and DOH (Division of Housing). We need to support their work and promote success by allowing them to hire and competitively pay the best people possible so they can effectively collaborate with organizations like Archway that are working hard to deliver housing. There is no question we need more resources, such as affordable housing tax credits, tax-exempt bonds and federal dollars such as HOME and CDBG funds. The challenge of the moment is how CHFA and DOH can deploy the funds they have as quickly as possible. My view is that the leadership of both organizations understand the opportunity we have and are working hard to meet the moment.
Finally, at the federal level, we’d all benefit from streamlined processes within HUD, our most important federal housing agency. The time and processes needed to secure HUD approvals for their various loan and grant programs must be improved. We have seen a very positive correlation between the proximity of the staff tasked with project approval and oversight to the projects. Federal tax credits are allocated and overseen primarily by state housing finance agencies, and certain HUD loan programs are administered by state HFAs through risk-sharing structures. Both of these approaches have proven to be effective models for more efficiently administering federal funds. While HUD loans often offer the most favorable financing terms, developers are often so wary of HUD’s approval processes that they choose less favorable options, trading certainty and speed of execution for less favorable loan terms.
Organizations such as Archway work hard every day to identify new opportunities for affordable housing in our communities and we will continue to do so. Everyone will win if the process of obtaining necessary approvals is less burdensome and the path to financing is more streamlined. This will take a concerted effort between our federal, state and local partners and we are excited to be engaged in this work across Colorado.
Next month we’ll dismantle the myths around NIMBY.