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Together Colorado & East County Housing Opportunity Coalition
Together Colorado & East County Housing Opportunity Coalition Announce Transformational Recommendations for Affordable Housing with ARPA Funds
On Monday, July 12, 2021, at Sister Carmen Community Center, Together Colorado and East County Housing Opportunity Coalition (ECHO) announced recommendations for long-term, systemic housing investments with American Rescue Plan Act money for Boulder County. The recommendations were developed by a coalition of diverse community members and organizations convened by Together Colorado and ECHO and represent specific, tangible, affordable housing strategies and tools. The full set of recommendations is available here. The four main proposals include:
- Invest $30 million of the $64 million ARPA funds Boulder County is receiving in a Housing Trust Fund (a funding mechanism to provide grants to local communities, nonprofit organizations, and housing authorities to produce and preserve affordable housing for low- and extremely low-income individuals)
- Provide Cash Assistance to Individuals (used to pay rental costs, deposits, and first and last month’s rent to help stabilize those who recently faced eviction or relocation or who are transitioning out of homelessness)
- Lead Regulatory Changes (local planning and zoning codes and procurement codes can be a help or a hindrance in producing affordable housing or creating equity)
- Improve Community Outreach (many renters and mortgage holders are unaware of all the resources and support available)
“There are some things that we MUST do now if we want our next generations to have hope; if we want our communities to thrive…we must provide and build affordable housing for the least of us. Thirty percent or less of Area Median Income (AMI) is what is truly needed today,” states Hermine Ngnomire, Founder of County Collectives and participant in the coalition.
Leti Lemus, Together Colorado leader, and Boulder County community member, affirms this, “I know I am not the only one struggling to find stable housing. Many other Boulder County residents, especially immigrants, struggle to afford and maintain consistent housing because the majority of our income goes toward rent.”
According to a recent white paper by the bi-partisan Common Sense Institute, “Colorado is on the verge of an affordable-housing crisis so severe that it could derail the state economy and contribute to a significant deterioration in the quality of life for those priced out of the market. . . . But addressing the shortfall will require unprecedented actions and intense coordination among the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.” (Common Sense Institute)
“Unprecedented action” is precisely what the collaborative community coalition focused on as they used a community-centered, grassroots approach in developing the proposals. Acknowledging that affordable housing often serves the needs of those who have disproportionately had less power and privilege, the coalition intentionally included Boulder County residents who live or have lived in various forms of affordable housing like mobile home parks, Section 8 housing, and other subsidized housing as well as folks who were formerly homeless. This was important because historically, developers and political officials have made decisions for and imposed projects on low-income residents and residents of color without including them in the process. As a coalition, the goal was to disrupt this “typical” model of city and county planning and ensure that those most affected by housing issues have a seat at the table and have real decision-making power.
The ARPA funds provide an extraordinary opportunity for Boulder County to create structural change that addresses our two most pressing needs; very low-income rentals and lower-cost starter homes. Our communal moral imperative is to intentionally rebuild a governing structure in a manner centered on the lived experiences of those most impacted by the housing crisis. We urge the Municipalities and the County to act on this opportunity to make a change that is an investment for the long term. No matter what we look like, where we come from, or how much is in our wallets, we all deserve a safe, stable place to live and thrive.
Together Colorado is a non-partisan, multi-racial, multi-faith community organization comprised of 220 congregations, schools, clergy and faith leaders across the state and a member of Faith in Action with 1,000 religious congregations in more than 200 cities and towns through its 45 local and state federations. We are organizing to place human dignity at the center of public life.
East County Housing Opportunity Coalition (ECHO) is a grassroots, independent coalition to educate, inform, and train East Boulder County residents about affordable housing needs, proposed projects, and how to be an effective, local advocate. ECHO works in the cities of Eastern Boulder County to hold elected officials accountable for achieving their affordable housing goals and to work with them in finding new and creative opportunities to develop more affordable housing.
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