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Colorado Springs working to combat affordable housing shortage

The city says says one-third of people in El Paso county are spending more than 30% of their income on housing
Colorado Springs working to combat affordable housing shortage
Posted at 4:33 PM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-20 21:10:19-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — The lack of affordable housing in the Colorado Springs region has been well-documented as the area continues to see record growth. City leaders and community leaders say they are well aware, and taking action.

“People are really shocked when they find out our teachers, our first responders, our entry level police officers--income wise--they qualify for one of our homes.” Kris Lewis Medina said.

She is the executive director and CEO of Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity. She knows a thing or two about affordable housing issues.

“Across the country affordable housing’s in crisis,” Lewis Medina said.

And she knows Colorado Springs is front and center for that crisis.

“Those that are making $60 thousand or less, they cannot find affordable housing,” she said.

The draft version of the City of Colorado Springs’ 2021 Action Plan to combat the issue says one third of people in El Paso county are spending more than 30% of their income on housing. Even worse, 13% are paying more than half.

“What was identified as one of the three biggest obstacles to come to Colorado Springs for economic development is a lack of affordable workforce housing for their employees,” Colorado Springs City Council Member David Geislinger said.

A prime example-- Space Command.

“When we submitted our worksheet, one of the areas of concern was lack of affordable housing,” he said.

So is there a solution?“

We have got to work together,” Lewis Medina said.

The City of Colorado Springs is making an effort to do that with that drafted action plan. The city held two public hearings Wednesday allowing residents to give feedback.

But the solutions don’t come easy. Being in a free market economy, the city can’t just mandate what landlords and home sellers can charge.

“On the front end, and developers are starting to take advantage of this, there’s LITEC funding and there’s private activity bonds, all of which have front end tax benefits,” Geislinger said.

That allows developers to make up for that money elsewhere, without having to pass the cost to home buyers and renters.

But a big part of the fix comes with a change in mindset.

“Affordable housing has such a bad stigma around it,” Lewis Medina said. “And it’s not low-income poverty housing. It’s decent, affordable housing that everyone can go home and feel safe at night.”