Mayoral candidates offer ideas to solve the city’s housing shortage
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Short by thousands of affordable housing units, the city of Colorado Springs has tackled the need through various means. Those include allowing accessory dwelling units — homes built on the same lots as existing single-family homes — higher-density development and the approval of thousands of apartments across the city, despite neighborhood opposition in some cases.

And yet, the city remains short on housing, so much so that developers have optioned or bought land outside city limits in hopes of annexing it. But in some cases, those hopes have been dashed by a recent City Council action to limit annexations — and access to city water — to land that has at least 25 percent of its borders contiguous to city limits, along with requirements the city have a certain level of water available. (A final vote was to take place Feb. 14 on the water rule.)

Meantime, rents have soared to range from $1,100 to $1,800 a month, on average, depending on location within the city.

Rising housing costs and the shortage have been blamed, in part, for Colorado Springs being passed over for the permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command. Huntsville, Alabama, was chosen instead, though lawmakers from the local to federal level are trying to reverse that decision.

Thus, the housing crisis will be on the plate of the city’s next mayor, which is why Sixty35 news magazine asked the 12 candidates seeking to succeed Mayor John Suthers in the April 4 city election for their ideas.

Their written responses, in reverse alphabetical order:

Wayne Williams: “As Chairman of the Colorado Springs Utilities Board, I worked to establish a fund to cover utility connection fees for affordable and attainable housing to help encourage construction by nonprofits and other community partners. On City Council, I worked with others to establish a program to rebate sales tax for attainable housing. As mayor, I will continue to work with community partners to incentivize a mix of both market-rate and affordable units.”

John Tiegen: “I am not a politician, making a living on taxpayer dollars while ignoring the community’s needs. I am here to take away the control of the few select departments and bring true power back to the people. Power to the community on how the city is governed and protected, how the tax dollars are spent and power for the people to decide what is best for them and their family…. My objective is that we all unite to make the change and bring our city together.”

Tom Strand: “Creating Federal, State, and local (both gov and private) funds, bonds, loans and grants, for affordable housing is absolutely essential. We have set an ambitious 1,000 unit per year goal. We need to triple that goal to meet the need. I would seek more urban renewal status funding; work with utilities to lower connecting fees; and encourage builders and developers to build smaller (tiny home concept) single family homes and apartments.”

Kallan Reece Rodebaugh: “Increase the supply of modestly priced housing by providing incentives and subsidies to developers for construction of apartments and dwellings. Establish local zoning policies that limit higher-end development and prioritize affordable housing.”

‘I am extremely concerned about young people’s ability to afford a reasonable living standard.’
— Andrew Dalby

Yemi Mobolade: “Regardless of income, race, age, gender, or ability, every Colorado Springs resident deserves a safe and affordable place to live. Through comprehensive plans and policies, and by following proven best practices, I will encourage diverse housing options, mixed-use building types, redevelopment, and promote other innovative housing efforts. My plan includes expanding existing tax rebate incentives to affordable housing projects…. In addition, I will create a ‘missing middle housing fund’ supported by foundations, philanthropy and businesses, to reward grants to developers and manufacturers who innovatively reduce the cost of building homes.”

Christopher Mitchell: “I subscribe to ‘Graduated Growth Planning’ which relates multivariate trend lines and the relationships to the outcroppings (e.g. infrastructure, crime, service coverage, and open space conservation) of the growth of the city…. The city’s ‘affordable housing crisis’ is a direct result of ill-conceived development policies and traditional supply-demand economics. ‘Graduated Growth Planning’ balances the multivariate dynamics of the housing market to bring housing cost stability. Before ‘affordability’, there has to be ‘stability’….”

Jim Miller: In an interview, he suggests the city enact a rule to prevent investors who buy apartment buildings from not honoring existing leases by raising rents. He also says he supports allowing property owners to convert garages into apartments, park motor homes on their property or install portable homes. “Those could be rented for $500 [a month] instead of paying rent up to two grand,” he says. Lastly, he calls for Colorado Springs Utilities to pursue renters who leave unpaid utility bills behind, rather than forcing the property owner to pay, “since a lot of landlords are paycheck-to-paycheck people.”

Lawrence Martinez: “If you build a 5 million dollar apartment building and charge 4 thousand dollars a month and then become a billion dollar company. You will provide our great citizen’s [sic] affordable housing by building an 800 hundred dollar a month apartment complex or redeveloped older apartment units, if not find another place to get rich.  Our children of Colorado Springs have no place to live developers have made sure of this by not building apartment complexes in the last ten years so as to jack up rent….”

Longinos Gonzalez Jr.: “Streamlining regulations that result in more efficient and timely permitting and approvals will reduce costs to new projects. While a [county] commissioner working with our County Housing Authority, we were able to effectively use private activity bonds and matching grants to fund new affordable housing and I will pursue and expand similar proposals within the city…. Promoting smart growth decisions within the city will also reduce infrastructure costs associated with new developments….”

Darryl Glenn: “In my opinion, the government cannot solve the affordable housing crisis nor should it attempt to implement policies that interfere with property rights. The government has an important role in administering and enforcing safety standards for housing. However, when it comes to affordability, the government’s role should be limited and constantly monitored to avoid infringing upon private property rights. I also believe that it’s not the government’s job to use tax-payer funding to artificially influence the affordable housing market. Housing affordability within any community is not a fundamental right.”

Andrew Dalby: “I have six children who are starting to become adults. I am extremely concerned about young people’s ability to afford a reasonable living standard. The median home price is half a million dollars, but the average annual wage is only around $50,000. Asking people in their 20s and 30s to save three or four years’ annual gross income, without spending a dime to live on, just to make a down payment leads to serious societal problems. The American dream should not be an unrealistic fantasy. [But] the law of supply and demand is an unavoidable fact….  I have seen firsthand how arbitrary and capricious regulations can make a development project’s costs balloon.”

Sallie Clark: “My strategy includes citizen engagement and partnerships to create a community housing plan. Our affordable housing plan will ensure people can access housing for less than 30% of household income. I will collaborate with local experts, state and federal agencies … and housing advocacy nonprofits…. Strategies: identify properties available for affordable housing ventures; fast track planning/zoning approvals; reduce regulatory burdens; provide financial assistance as available; reducing, deferring, off-setting, or waiving development fees; establishing a land banking program to ensure availability of land for development; consider exemptions for property tax or sales and use taxes….”

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