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Reps. Jodeh & Woodrow: The state can and should encourage housing near transit with legislation this year

Feb 28, 2024

This story was originally published in the Denver Post here.

House Bill 1313 uses goals tied to HUTF funds to give local communities incentives to build more housing near transit

Every day, Coloradans grapple with the harsh realities of our housing crisis. Finding an affordable place to rent or buy feels like a dream out-of-reach for many. Recent polling shows that 95% of Coloradans say the cost of renting or buying a home in Colorado is a problem.

You read that right; a January poll conducted by Keating Research of 1,277 registered voters in Colorado said 95% said affordable housing was a problem – ninety-five percent. Of the homes people can afford, they are farther and farther away from their jobs, the communities they grew up in, and the places they want to live. It’s time for action.

Increasing the supply of housing close to transit is an important piece of the solution. Building near existing, new, and expanded public transit systems, safe biking and walking corridors, and job centers will save Coloradans money while protecting our environment. It’s a win-win for Colorado and critical to the future of our State.

Enter House Bill 1313, a crucial bill that builds on the successes some localities have enjoyed in fostering transit-oriented communities. This bill is the product of months of participating in housing tours across the state and meeting weekly with a large group that included affordable housing advocates, transportation experts, local governments, city planners, environmental advocates, realtors, chambers of commerce, non-profit organizations, developers and policy experts (We like to call these meetings TOC Tuesdays).

As a result, this bill is a thoughtful pathway to constructing housing Coloradans can afford in close proximity to transit and employment centers, thereby reducing housing costs and pollution while promoting vibrant, walkable neighborhoods. It’s a tangible way to ensure that the people we care about can continue to call Colorado home.

Support for this initiative is overwhelming. According to the Keating poll, 68% of Coloradans back a hypothetical state law that promotes housing development near transit and commercial hubs. This sentiment resonates across party lines and in urban, suburban, and rural areas alike, underscoring the statewide urgency for action.

There are many recognizable and successful transit oriented communities around the state and this bill will help more communities replicate that success. A few examples include Olde Town Arvada, served by the G Line commuter rail and includes a mixed-use district with multi-family residential, hotel, and retail. Sheridan Station, served by the W Light Rail Line, is in a residential district with multi-family homes, townhomes, and single-family homes. City Center & Ridgegate Stations in Lone Tree are served by light rail, which are in mixed-use districts with multi-family homes, office, and retail.

By eliminating barriers to smart growth, the bill empowers local governments to address their housing needs effectively while providing financial incentives for municipalities that embrace this vision. At its core, the bill establishes locally-tailored goals, setting reasonable targets for jurisdictions to increase housing stock near transit and urban centers. Flexibility is key, allowing communities to meet these goals while preserving their unique character.

Moreover, communities that work to achieve the goals of the bill will benefit from a new Affordable Housing Tax Credit, which mirrors federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) funds, and will also get access to a Transit-Oriented Communities Infrastructure Fund. These resources support affordable housing construction and essential infrastructure development, ensuring that our communities thrive.

The bill gives local governments a long runway and financial support to meet their goal, but if they struggle to reach their goal by December 1, 2026 the state can withhold Highway User Tax Funding (HUTF) from them. However, communities can apply for an extension if they demonstrate a plan to achieve their housing goals. They have until December 31, 2027, to meet these targets, after which they’ll be considered out of compliance with state law.

If local governments don’t meet their goal, housing costs will rise, pollution will worsen, and traffic congestion will increase. That’s why this bill links HUTF with these forward-looking objectives.

We recognize that development can carry a heightened risk of displacement. The bill includes strategies to promote affordability while mitigating the challenges created for existing residents. Through careful planning and state support, we can ensure that progress doesn’t come at the expense of our most vulnerable neighbors.

It’s time for action. By expanding housing options near transit, we pave the way for a more sustainable and equitable future where Coloradans don’t need to drive hours every day to work. HB-1313 aligns our priorities with the bright future Coloradans deserve, incentivizing local governments to lead the charge.

Let’s seize this opportunity to build a Colorado where everyone can afford to thrive, where housing is accessible, and where our environment is safeguarded for generations to come.

Iman Jodeh represents District 41 in the Colorado House and Steven Woodrow represents District 2 in the Colorado House.

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