Fort Collins community members gather to discuss the housing crisis

Carson Lipe

Throughout Colorado, about 10,000 people are currently experiencing homelessness.

The subject of homelessness was one of many topics about the affordable housing crisis addressed Saturday at a community discussion. The meeting was held at the Council Tree Library in Fort Collins. 

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A panel of leaders from various government organizations, along with Senator John Kefalas, led the presentation on housing, while members of the community voiced their concerns and asked questions related to the housing crisis.

“About a year ago, there were 1,000 people per month moving to Denver,” said Chaer Robert, a representative from the Colorado Center on Law & Policy.

She noted overpopulation as a significant contributing factor to the inflated housing prices in the Colorado real estate market.

A handoutat the discussion provided housing statistics from the Colorado Fiscal Institute. The handout highlighted the low statewide housing vacancy rate of 5.1 percent and the population increase from 2010-2016 was at 13.37 percent.

Although the tally of homeless Coloradoans has a measurable number, Carol Hedges of the Colorado Fiscal Institute believes that even people with a place to live can be affected by the price hike.

“It’s not just (homelessness), it’s the anxiety that people get from that threat of loss.”

Hedges acknowledged the serious nature of the housing crisis.

“Housing and housing policy is so much more than homelessness, and so much more than an economic issue,” Hedges said. “The implications of this dramatic increase in the price of housing spread way beyond the limitations of an economic challenge.”

Hedges explained the housing crisis was about more than just having a place to live.

“There’s so much more value to the idea of housing, than just housing, because it’s really about home,” Hedges said. 

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Larimer County citizen Jane Everham offered her own interpretation of what home means.

“I think of home as a sort of battery charger that enables me to go out into the world and do things that are important to me,” Everham said. 

Other discussion topics on housing related issues included the lack of rental units available for extremely low-income households, the miniscule amount funding for Colorado’s Department of Housing and the impact of homelessness on the state and its citizens.

After the panel’s presentation on issues affecting the state, they went on to discuss ways that Colorado is working to improve the poor housing conditions.

“We now have a pot of pot money that is really helping us out,” Robert said. 

Robert went on to explain that prior to the legalization of recreational marijuana, Colorado could only contribute $8 million per year to affordable housing.

“This last year, we added in the $15 million from the marijuana tax cash fund,” Robert said. “So that’s a big help compared to what we had.”

Robert also explained that a big help to the Colorado housing market could potentially be a real estate transfer tax, which Robert said was “almost like a sales tax when you sell a house.”

Colorado does not currently allow this tax, which could create additional funding for housing improvements, due to a state constitutional amendment.

”We can have (a real estate transfer tax), we just need to get a vote of all the people to agree with it,” Robert said. 

 

Collegian reporter Carson Lipe can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @CarsonLipe