Page 36 — Multifamily Properties Quarterly — November 2020 Affordable Housing W hile we may be waiting with anticipation for the new year (2021 can’t be as bad as 2020, right?), those who work with state and federal policy are bracing for anoth- er year of battles, very hard choices and polarized rhetoric. Although this sounds bruising, affordable housing, like the desert plant that blooms in the thunderstorm, is poised to take advantage of the financial upheavals to emerge stronger and more effective. n Federal funding and programs. Hours before the beginning of the next federal fiscal year on Oct. 1, President Trump signed a continu- ing resolution, keeping the federal government open through Dec. 11. Funding for the Housing Choice Voucher programs, homeless ser- vices, and the affordable housing tax credit programs will continue at 2020 levels. The CARES Act provided much-needed immediate relief for rental assistance programs and foreclosure prevention, as well as additional funding for other critical affordable housing programs. The HEROS act, passed by the House but not the Senate, would have provided a fix for the 4% tax credit program and other changes to the affordable housing program that would have resulted in the creation of more than a million new units. With the Centers for Disease Con- trol and Prevention’s eviction mora- torium expiring Dec. 31, Congress will have to act quickly to fund existing programs, provide relief to tenants and landlords, prevent a mass of COVID- 19-related foreclo- sures, and keep the necessary building of affordable hous- ing units going. n The state bud- get. Remember last May? In the face of worsening economic condi- tions, the intrepid Joint Budget Committee had to cut 25% of the budget. The 2020-2021 state budget is projected to be 20% lower – and members of the JBC have shared that they used all the one-time tricks to shore up fund- ing. While the state’s contribution to affordable housing develop- ments is small – the state dollars are generally the last ones in and typically are used to cover gaps in debt and equity stacks – with tax credit markets unpredictable, and lending institutions requiring more coverage and assurances, any fund- ing that is not a loan and does not require investors is welcome. n Please keep building. The Great Recession provides a cautionary tale on how not to recover from an economic recession. During and after the Great Recession, Colorado lost many small and midsized con- struction companies, and has never returned to the levels of housing construction seen in the previous decade of 1997-2007. This lack of construction, coupled with increas- ing population and stagnant wages, contributed to the existing hous- ing affordability crisis. While it is certainly critical to address the immediate needs of eviction and foreclosure prevention, it also is just as critical to fund housing develop- ment. Affordable housing remains a solid investment for developers and communities, and it is imperative to maintain funding for housing, and housing-friendly policies at the local, state and federal levels. n Homeownership. Also a result of the Great Recession was a decline in homeownership rates for Black and Hispanic people in Colorado. Many fear a looming pandemic- related foreclosure crisis that will hit those communities the hardest. It is critical to maintain and fund policies that support homeown- ership, including down payment assistance, equity-sharing models and land trust development. n Elections. As is often the case during presidential election years, the drama and high stakes of the presidential race overshadow criti- cal local and state elections. Colo- rado faces 11 ballot measures, sev- eral critical state senate and house seats and numerous local elections. The results of these local and state elections do shape day-to-day and on-the-ground quality of life for Coloradoans. Two ballot measures have specific impact on housing. • Proposition EE: Tobacco and Vape Tax Initiative would raise taxes on cigarettes and impose a new tax on vaping products. The proceeds would be allocated to fund public schools and free preschool, afford- able housing and eviction assis- tance, and tobacco-vape cessation and public health programs. • Amendment B: Repeal Gallagher Amendment is a bipartisan plan that would freeze property taxes at current rates. Without the repeal residential property taxes would again ratchet down (due to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights) and com- mercial rates would increase to maintain the 45/55 split mandated by Gallagher. Local entities that rely on property taxes – such as police and fire departments, water dis- tricts, libraries – have projected 20% budget cuts next year. Proponents hope that once the amendment is repealed, the Legislature and hous- ing advocates will be able to rectify the current inequalities in the prop- erty taxing system through legisla- tion. Also important to watch are City Council elections, the Regional Transportation District Board, school boards and county commis- sioners. These hard-working and often unsung heroes make the per- mitting decisions, transit strategy and land use policy that determine the fate of affordable housing proj- ects. 2021 certainly will be a year of great challenge and great opportu- nity for the affordable housing com- munity. s What does 2021 look like for affordability policies? Elena Wilken Executive director, Housing Colorado I n the August issue, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority shared its perspective on COV- ID-19’s impact and the organi- zation’s focus on adaptation as the pandemic’s effects continue to unfold. Fulfilling CHFA’s mission and serving the growing and changing needs of its customers remains the organization’s fundamental pur- pose. CHFA’s programs to support homeownership, affordable rental housing and businesses are expect- ed to remain – if not increase – in demand, as the impacts of COVID-19 carry over into 2021. CHFA stands committed to meeting needs by being proactive, responsive, innova- tive and connected. Likewise, CHFA’s technology and infrastructure to support safe and secure remote interaction with its customers were vital in 2020 and will continue to ensure CHFA operates at a high standard going forward. n Renter strain . Before the pandem- ic, financial stress on renters and the need for more affordable rental housing already was significant. In 2019, half of all Colorado renters were considered housing cost-bur- dened, paying 30% or more of their income on housing expenses. Now, with many renters experiencing unexpected job loss and reduced income, making rent has become a growing challenge. In January 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide eviction moratorium will end, furthering the burden. These circumstances have the potential to affect renters, mul- tifamily properties and communi- ties at large – all while escalating the general demand for affordable rental housing throughout Colo- rado. CHFA has been monitoring how COVID-19 is impacting those it serves, includ- ing homeowners and renters, and will continue to do so to ensure the organization is positioned to connect custom- ers and partners to assistance available. In addition, CHFA has donated over half a mil- lion dollars to help nonprofits pro- viding crisis relief services includ- ing emergency rent assistance, food access and homelessness support. CHFA will continue to support such programs that may face grow- ing demand in 2021. Additionally, CHFA’s focus on finding new, inno- vative ways to finance and increase affordable housing will remain key, especially as budget priorities may shift for nonprofits and local gov- ernments. n Small-scale multifamily hous- ing. In 2019, CHFA, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs’ Divi- sion of Housing, and Housing Colo- rado held several “listening tours” around Colorado. One of the recur- ring themes expressed from various communities was the challenge to help finance and build affordable housing developments that have fewer than 20 units, particularly in rural locations. CHFA and DOLA now are working together to devel- op a program to help address this and increase affordable housing in a way that’s never been done before at CHFA. To learn more about the challenge, the team interviewed over 50 stake- holders locally and nationally. It was discovered that technical assistance is a significant hurdle, as well as financing. As a result, the program being created will include financial sup- port and technical assistance for small-scale housing development. Financing is anticipated to include both direct lending from CHFA and collateral support to leverage pri- vate-sector financing through local banks. CHFA’s upcoming regional expansions will provide staff based in areas such as the Four Corners region, Northern Colorado and East- ern Colorado, bolstering CHFA’s com- munity relationships and ability to provide such technical assistance. The program is expected to launch in 2021. n Equity across Colorado. In 2016, CHFA adopted a bold vision that everyone in Colorado should have the opportunity for housing stability and economic prosperity. To advance this work, CHFA embraced its long- standing core values of diversity and inclusion. Recent events have highlighted that CHFA’s work must continue, now more than ever, to ensure all Coloradans have equitable access to safe, decent and affordable housing. By working together with partners and those it seeks to serve, CHFA is committed to being a cata- lyst for change. Examples of disparities that CHFA has begun and will continue to focus on are homeownership rates of Black and Hispanic populations compared to white, as well as access to affordable housing in rural areas compared to urban. CHFA aims to examine what barriers exist, why they exist and how to overcome them to increase equity across Colo- rado. As plans take shape for the year ahead, CHFA looks forward to meet- ing its mission in new ways. The past year solidified how imperative affordable housing and community development are for communities statewide, and CHFA is proud to play a role investing in Colorado’s future. Details about CHFA’s programs and information about new offerings can be found on CHFA’s website: www. s CHFA puts forward-thinking plans into motion Cris A. White Executive director and CEO, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority One of the recurring themes expressed from various communities was the challenge to help finance and build affordable housing developments that have fewer than 20 units, particularly in rural locations.