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Colorado to invest $400 million in affordable housing

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Eric Galatas

(Colorado News Connection) A task force charged with addressing homelessness and affordable housing across Colorado is expected to release recommendations on how to invest some $400 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds later this month.

Cathy Alderman, chief communications and public policy officer at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, serves as vice-chair for the task force's sub-panel, made up of non-governmental housing experts.

She said most people agree expanding housing capacity should be a top priority, and not just in the state's urban areas.

"One way to help resolve the housing crisis is to make sure there is more affordable housing available to people at all different income levels across the state," Alderman asserted. "Creating new units of housing, as well as preserving existing affordable housing. "

Lawmakers passed House Bill 1329 last session to create a roadmap for using $500 million in federal rescue dollars to assist Coloradans impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency. The first hundred million went directly to current Division of Housing programs.

The Affordable Housing Transformational Task Force must deliver a final report on its recommendations on investing the remaining funds to the General Assembly and Gov. Jared Polis by Jan. 21.

Alderman pointed out because ARPA money represents a one-time-only cash infusion, much of the funding may be released as revolving loans, so money can be reinvested in housing as loans are paid off. She noted legislators made it clear the funds must be invested to address the needs of communities disproportionately impacted by COVID.

"Those communities are often the same communities that have traditionally had huge barriers to accessing housing: communities of color, tribal communities, and the communities of people experiencing homelessness," Alderman outlined.

She added investments in wrap-around services are especially critical for helping people exiting homelessness, and people with mental or physical disabilities. Supports can include help to access medical and behavioral care, and with basic life skills like identifying bus routes to the local grocery store.

"Vocational services, connecting people with employment," Alderman suggested. "There are a full range of supportive services, and they have shown time after time to be very successful in maintaining peoples' housing stability."