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Our View: Affordable housing measure a sustainable solution

Housing is a basic need. Without it, we won’t hold onto our working and middle class. Our service workers, our nurses, our teachers, our police officers. The lack of affordable housing in the Southwest affects everything, including other election concerns, such as crime. Across the state, we need more police officers on streets. But they need someplace decent to live.

As it is now, meeting the housing need is out of reach. The good news is voters can say yes to a common-sense, thorough ballot measure that could make affordable housing in Colorado a reality. If Proposition 123 succeeds, Colorado will put about $300 million a year of existing state revenues toward housing. A yes vote supports creating the State Affordable Housing Fund and dedicating one-tenth of 1% (0.1%) of state income tax revenue to fund housing programs.

This would mean funding about 10,000 affordable housing units per year around the state. Proposition 123 would put us on the path to solve the housing crisis – and it is a crisis – within 20 years. If the economy were to take a dive, a mechanism to turn off this spending would be in place.

Something else we like about Proposition 123. It would not raise taxes. Instead, it sets aside some revenues. Nothing is free and taxpayers would see a cost to their Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights refunds with money coming from this pool. For example, our TABOR refund this summer was $750. With Proposition 123, we could expect that check to be $707. Not bad, if this means our workers and seniors could afford places to live.

Mike Johnston, president and chief executive officer of the campaign’s backer, Gary Community Ventures, has figures that show 51% of Coloradoans can’t afford to live here. Separately, 86% of Coloradoans rated housing costs as a “very” or “extremely serious” problem, according to a Colorado Health Foundation poll in April 2022. We hope these figures mean voters get behind this measure.

This is the best housing plan we’ve seen so far and pushes market actors in the right direction. Other purposes for the fund include:

* Land banking. Governments and nonprofit developers would get loans to buy land for future projects.

* Grants and financing. These monies would go toward low- and middle-income multi-family housing, and gap financing for qualifying projects.

* Programs for people experiencing homelessness.

* Debt financing for modular and factory-based housing builders.

It’s difficult to know the odds of this initiative passing. We’re not hearing much outcry.

More than 100 groups and people, including local Republican leaders like Jackie Millet, the mayor of Lone Tree, as well as business-oriented organizations such as the Colorado Forum, the Colorado Association of Realtors and the Colorado Bankers Association, support the measure.

But at this time, no Republican state lawmakers are making public endorsements. And Advance Colorado Action, a conservative group, is opposing the measure. Michael Fields, a senior advisor for the group, said in a statement: “There is nothing ‘affordable’ about taking $300 million of our TABOR tax refunds for a flawed housing measure. To fix our state’s housing crisis, we need to build more, not tax more.”

No, Proposition 123 does not tax more. To build more housing, we first need the money and land.

We are at a crossroads here in Colorado . Proposition 123 is a sustainable solution for affordable housing.