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Polis announces executive order to address housing challenges

"We wanted to show that we're doing what we can to move forward and to remove barriers from housing," Polis said.

DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) announced Monday he is issuing executive action aimed at addressing housing challenges in the state.

"We wanted to show that we're doing what we can to move forward and to remove barriers from housing," Polis said.

The goals of the executive order include increasing housing opportunities, protecting the environment and aligning with climate goals, aligning transportation with Colorado's growing needs, protecting and increasing economic growth and mobility and more.

The Governor's Office said nearly a third of Colorado households spend more than 30% of their income on housing, and that people are forced to live farther away from their jobs, leading to more traffic and decreased access to job opportunities.

"Coloradans want a rejection of the status quo, which is why I am taking the actions that I can within my authority to streamline and speed up approval and ensure the government is not a barrier to housing being built while helping save people money,” Polis said. “Colorado must have more housing that people can afford in the state."

>Watch the full news conference below:

The order will aim to reduce the amount of time the Division of Housing within the Department of Local Affairs has to approve loans and grants from 240 days down to 90. The goal is to speed up construction of affordable housing. 

"We’re working on an affordable housing project right now in partnership with the US Forest Service in Dillon and we just received a five-million-dollar grant," said Tamara Pogue, a Summit County Commissioner. "It has taken us many, many months to get that grant approved, to get the contract signed, to get the money to us so that we can begin development. This executive order really shortens that process."

Summit County is the first community in the nation working to lease land from the Forest Service to build affordable housing. They’re working with the federal government now to develop the land into homes. In an area with a limited space where prices continue to go up, they have to be creative to find new places to build.

Executive order to address housing affordability could help counties solve their own housing crises:

"For us to be most effective in solving the crisis, there has to be good partnership and collaboration between state and local government," said Pogue. "If we are not as aggressive as possible, which really does require a partnership with the state, we won’t be able to protect the nature of our community moving forward."

After a failed attempt earlier this year to pass a bill to change land use rules in Colorado, Polis used executive action to tackle affordable housing. While the executive order will speed up construction of affordable housing, it does far less than what the land use bill would have done. It doesn’t touch topics like the controversial zoning changes or additional dwelling units in Polis’ failed top priority legislation.

What’s at stake here is not whether or not Colorado will grow. We know more people are moving here and will continue to in the future. Polis says if the state doesn’t push regulations that help affordable housing, we’ll see growth in the wrong places. One example is people having to commute for hours and housing sprawls because the cities are so expensive to live in.

The order also directs state offices including the Colorado Energy Office, the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and others to take note of their policies and procedures to see how they could impact affordable housing in a positive manner. 

"We want to make sure that we reduce red tape, streamline the process and internally focus on getting more housing out the door," Polis said. 

Listed below are the goals outlined for Colorado’s government directed by the executive order:

  • Incentivize development in line with the administration’s climate and air quality goals, use less energy, conserve water and require less infrastructure.
  • Address water challenges by encouraging actions outlined in the Colorado Water Plan to increase water conservation; increase water efficiency for households through water-efficient outdoor landscapes, support infill and watershed health. In addition, reduce water supply, treatment and distribution costs.
  • Reduce development pressures in agricultural and open space areas, and discourage sprawl.
  • Incentivize housing development, production, preservation and stability for every budget that will accommodate Colorado’s expected population growth, while staying in line with limits in infrastructure and resources available. Also providing housing affordability, availability and accessibility.
  • Promote and expand frequent, reliable and safe transit service that aligns with housing goals, and prioritize safe access to transit and people’s daily needs through complete streets.
  • Support economic development in downtowns, commercial, and mixed-use areas, infill development and revitalization efforts.
  • Improving access to economic mobility by providing more affordable and attainable housing options to rent or own. Transportation for people who currently are unable to afford living in high-opportunity neighborhoods, with connection to high-quality services that help people achieve their goals.
  • Ensuring Colorado processes are effective, efficient and responsive to community needs while reducing paperwork and time burdens. Reform unnecessary policies that drive up costs and add barriers to public infrastructure, transportation and local housing developments.
  • Consider the context of different regions and communities across Colorado. Empower and promote local initiatives and ideas that lead to strategic growth. Recognize all communities have unique needs that require additional flexibility when applying strategic growth goals, especially in rural and resort communities, and communities vulnerable to displacement.

"State competitiveness data we’ve collected shows that Colorado has one of the highest housing costs compared to other states.  It’s critical that all tools in the toolbox are used to reduce the housing shortage and affordability crisis that Colorado is experiencing,” said Loren Furman, president and CEO of the Colorado Chamber of Commerce.

“Housing, and especially affordable housing, remains a top concern for so many Coloradans, especially those making the least amount of money,” said Brian Rossbert, executive director of Housing Colorado. “We are hopeful that with today’s executive order, positive steps in the direction of aligning state resources will result in shorter time frames and greater funding for projects that provide affordable housing for our state’s residents.”

"Gov. Polis' order will help move toward those goals by ensuring that the state’s resources are directed in ways that reduce energy and water use, while expanding transportation options and improving housing affordability,” said Alana Miller, policy director for Natural Resources Defense Council. 

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