Owens’ veto disappoints | SteamboatToday.com
Tamera Manzanares

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Owens’ veto disappoints

Local housing advocates are disappointed Gov. Bill Owens vetoed a bill aimed at helping the state better meet affordable housing needs.

House Bill 1331 sought to established a structure for the Colorado Division of Housing to allocate state grants and long-term loans for affordable housing projects.

Owens vetoed the bill June 1, citing a lack of an identified funding source for the proposal. Without that, “it would be fiscally irresponsible for this to become law,” Owens said in a letter stating his position.

Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, is among those who voted against the bill and shared Owens’ concerns.

“I understand the importance of low-income housing availability and have consistently supported most efforts to provide that,” he said. “However, in this case, there were problems with a definitive funding mechanism.”

Currently, the Division of Housing, an agency within the Department of Local Affairs, distributes federal grants to qualified housing projects. The division also provides short-term construction loans from the state’s Home Investment Trust Fund.

The problem is that eligibility requirements for federal grants leave many housing needs unfilled — particularly in high-cost areas where land values are skyrocketing and residents’ incomes don’t meet traditional poverty guidelines, said Alana Smart, executive director of Housing Colorado.

The affordable-housing advocacy organization is part of the Colorado Housing Investment Fund Coalition, which is working to secure flexible state funds for grants and loans and was a main proponent of the bill.

“The big dream is to find a funding stream that is reliable over time,” Smart said.

Such a fund also would allow the state to grant local governments and organizations money to purchase land for long-term affordable housing, which is not possible with federal grants, said Pat Coyle, program administrator for the Division of Housing.

Such provisions gave officials with the Yampa Valley Housing Authority high hopes for the bill.

“I’m extremely disappointed with the governor’s veto,” said Kathi Meyer, president of the YVHA board of directors.

YVHA programs are supported by government-related loans and mortgage credit certificates. As a new agency, the housing authority is establishing requirements to apply for grants.

Although disappointing, the bill’s veto isn’t necessarily a huge blow to the organization, executive director Elizabeth Black said.

“It doesn’t change our plans to acquire grants and loans,” she said. “It would have been a bonus to what we will apply for.”

The Colorado Housing In—-vestment Fund Coalition commissioned an economic analysis that suggested a real estate transfer tax as a potential funding source for the proposal.

However, such a tax would require voter approval because of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights and also was widely disputed by the real estate community.

As a result, H.B. 1331 focuses on establishing a structure for a grant and loan program for when funding is available, Smart said.

Taylor said the funding problem emphasizes the importance of supporting referendums C and D, which will be on the November ballot and propose to fix the state’s budgetary problems.

Despite setbacks, Smart said the coalition is far from giving up its hopes for a more flexible home investment fund. The executive committee for the coalition will be meeting this week to reorganize its strategy, she said.