Affordable housing bill clears House

By Vic Vela

A Democrat-sponsored bill that aims to provide more access to affordable housing in Colorado passed the House on March 4, following a party-line vote.

Democrats see the bill as an overdue piece of legislation that would help struggling families obtain roofs over their heads, including those who were affected by last year's flooding that ravaged parts of the state.

But House Republicans said Democrats' own policies have contributed to the lack of affordable housing and that the bill's effort to help flood-impacted families doesn't go far enough.

House Bill 1017 would provide tax incentives to developers who construct affordable or reasonably-priced homes. The bill also gives the state's Home Investment Trust Fund the ability to make more low-interest loans available for the purposes of affordable housing construction.

The bill would impact the state's General Fund by $40 million over the next decade.

Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, the bill's sponsor, said the legislation is a response to the increasing need for affordable housing in Colorado, where rents continue to rise, causing more people to become priced out of their neighborhoods.

"It is an issue that has hit every single corner of our state, in both urban and rural areas," Duran said just before the House vote.

A bill amendment that was added prior to the House vote would give housing priority to those who were affected by last year's floods in the northern part of the state.

However, House Republicans said they needed more assurance that the bill would give priority to flood victims and proposed an amendment that would require 50 percent of the money to be set aside for that purpose.

That and several other Republican amendments failed.

And Republicans wondered whether this bill would do anything to help the state's affordable housing issues, to begin with. Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, said that Democrats' own regulations on the construction industry - which were meant to provide more consumer protections - have raised insurance costs and have made it less desirable for developers to build affordable homes.

"We've basically killed affordable housing in the private sector and this bill does nothing to help that," Gerou said.

House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso, R-Loveland, agreed with his Republican colleague.

"We think we're going to dangle a few dollars of a credit in front of someone and that it's somehow going to solve the problem?" he said. "We're kidding ourselves."

But Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, quoted Chinese philosopher Confucius as he accused Republicans of playing politics for not getting their way in the amendment process.

"While on the road to revenge we need to be prepared to dig two graves," Singer said. "We as a body cannot afford to waste time with petty partisanship when it comes to the flood or this bill."