Chase Woodruff/Colorado Newsline
Colorado voters will decide in November whether to increase state spending on affordable housing initiatives by tapping into funds that might otherwise be returned under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
Initiative 108, which officially qualified for the 2022 ballot last month, would dedicate an additional $300 million annually to the state’s affordable housing efforts. It would protect additional revenue by exempting funds from annual limits set by TABOR, the 1992 constitutional amendment that places restrictions on Colorado’s tax and spending levels.
“This measure is desperately needed if we want future generations of Coloradans to prosper,” said Brian Rossbert, executive director of the nonprofit Housing Colorado, which is part of a coalition supporting the measure, in a statement. .
“Too many Coloradans can no longer afford to live in the neighborhoods where they put down roots,” he said. “It forces families to make difficult decisions about moving, deprives communities of essential services and intensifies our homelessness crisis.”
If approved by voters, Initiative 108 would establish a new state Affordable Housing Fund and exempt it from TABOR limits. Each year, 60% of its funding would support a housing program overseen by the state’s Bureau of Economic Development and International Trade, with the remaining 40% distributed by the Department of Local Affairs.
The measure requires that the bulk of OEDIT funding be directed to “equity investments in low- and middle-income multi-family rental developments”. Efforts overseen by DOLA would include grants to help first-time home buyers pay their down payment and a separate program to provide housing assistance and housing vouchers to homeless people.
A state committee responsible for supporting Initiative 108, Coloradans for Affordable Housing Now, raised $2.8 million to fund its campaign earlier this year. Its biggest donor by far is the Denver-based charity Gary Community Ventures, which donated $2 million. Other donors include Habitat for Humanity Denver and the National Association of Realtors.
The measure drew opposition from Advance Colorado Action, a deep-pocketed “dark money” nonprofit that helped fund and coordinate a wide range of conservative causes in Colorado’s recent election.
“There’s nothing ‘affordable’ about taking $300 million of our TABOR tax refunds for a flawed housing measure,” Advance Colorado’s Michael Fields said in a statement last month. “To solve our state’s housing crisis, we need to build more, not tax more.”
Backers say the measure could help fund the construction of 170,000 new homes in the coming years, offsetting what is expected to be a worsening housing crisis in fast-growing Colorado.
In May, a budget impact statement drafted by nonpartisan Legislative Council staff noted that the TABOR impact of the measure would vary from year to year depending on income levels and how lawmakers choose to split repayments.
“If refunds are paid through the mechanisms of the current law, the measure is expected to reduce refunds by approximately $40 per taxpayer, on average, for the 2023 tax year and by $80 per taxpayer, on average, for tax year 2024,” the analysts wrote.
“The measure will increase investment in affordable housing developments, increasing revenue for developers and construction companies,” the nonpartisan staff wrote in a separate tax summary. “Some households that would otherwise face housing insecurity can find stable housing under the measure, increasing their financial security and job opportunities.”
Other steps toward a vote on Colorado’s 2022 ballot include three proposals to change the state’s liquor laws.