Colorado voters will decide on an initiative to create a new state affordable housing fund in November. Supporters submitted 230,748 signatures for the measure on August 4, 2022. On August 19, the office of the Colorado Secretary of State announced that the initiative had qualified for the ballot. Through verification of random samples, 149,072 were found to be valid. To qualify for the ballot, 124,631 valid signatures were needed.
The initiative, sponsored by Coloradans for Affordable Housing Now, would dedicate one-tenth of one percent (0.01%) of state income tax revenue to the state Affordable Housing Fund.
Colorado has a flat tax rate of 4.55% of federal taxable income. An initiative also on the November 2022 ballot would lower the rate to 4.40% from January 1, 2022.
Under the initiative, affordable housing would be defined as rental housing “affordable for a household whose annual income is equal to or less than 60% of the area’s median income, and which costs the household less than 30% of his monthly income. and “a home for sale that could be purchased by a household whose annual income is equal to or less than 100% of the area’s median income, for which the mortgage payment costs the household less than 30% of its monthly income”.
The funds would be used to:
- providing grants to local governments and loans to non-profit organizations to acquire and maintain land for affordable housing development;
- created a affordable housing equity program making equity investments in multi-family rental units to ensure that rent does not exceed 30% of a household’s income;
- create a concessional borrowing program to provide debt financing to low- and middle-income multi-family rental developments and existing affordable housing projects;
- created a affordable home ownership program providing down payment assistance to homebuyers who meet certain income requirements;
- creating a grants program for local governments to increase capacity to process land use, permit and zoning applications for housing projects; and
- create a program to provide housing assistance, housing vouchers and other case management services for homeless people.
For the 2022-2023 fiscal year, an estimated $135 million will be allocated to the state’s Affordable Housing Fund. For the first full fiscal year, fiscal year 2023-24, Colorado Legislative Council staff estimated that $270 million would be transferred from the state’s general fund to the state’s Affordable Housing Fund. The initiative would authorize the state to retain and spend these funds as voter-approved revenue shifts above the state’s TABOR limits, which it would otherwise be required to return to taxpayers.
The Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) requires voter approval for all new taxes, tax rate increases, expiring tax extensions, factory levy increases, assessment for increases in property assessment or changes in tax policy resulting in increased tax revenue. TABOR limits the amount of money the State of Colorado can receive and spend. It limits the annual increase in certain state revenues to inflation plus the percentage change in the state’s population. Any money collected over this limit is returned to taxpayers unless voters authorize the state to spend it.
Coloradans for Affordable Housing Now has raised $2.8 million from donors including Gary Ventures Inc., the National Association of Realtors, Colorado Low Income Housing Campaign and Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver.
Brian Rossbert, Executive Director of Housing Colorado, said, “Coloradoans have spoken and they want to make Colorado affordable. Too many Coloradans can no longer afford to live in the neighborhoods where they have taken root. This forces families to make difficult decisions about moving, deprives our communities of essential services and intensifies our homelessness crisis. This measure is desperately needed if we want future generations of Coloradans to thrive.
Natalie Menten, Board Member of the TABOR Foundation, said: “If this passes, the number on this TABOR refund check will be smaller. And potentially, in some years, there won’t be a check coming your way because it’ll take everything. I oppose it on several levels. Many of us don’t want to live downtown. But what this pushes us to do is get more high-density housing, and that’s not what I want to see more of, frankly.
Seven other measures are currently certified to appear on the November ballot in Colorado. Three initiatives regarding liquor in grocery and convenience stores, liquor delivery, and liquor store licensing are in the process of signature verification and could qualify for the ballot.
From 1985 to 2020, an average of nine measures have appeared on the statewide ballot in even-numbered years in Colorado. The approval rate for the measures in the ballot in even years is 47.34%.