Valley’s Voice: Celebrating. Graduating. Advocating. 

My oldest son is graduating, and I am a ball of emotions — proud, excited for his future, sad that this chapter is ending (so FAST!), in awe of the young man he has become. He is a Coloradan through and through — he’s working with the Forest Service this summer, going to CU later this year and is perpetually planning an outdoor adventure. 

As he charts his path, he has been consistent in his desire to return to a mountain community like ours as an adult. But I wonder how he will be able to make a life in the mountains. He doesn’t realize it now but, as someone who has spent their career in housing, I see walls that were not there for his dad and me when we were starting out in Vail 25 years ago.  

Living in the mountains has never been easy, I worked multiple jobs when I first moved here, but there was more housing supply, and costs were lower. At first, I was able to easily find a rental unit and roommates. When I got married my husband and I were able to buy a home. My housing story is one of good timing. Now, housing supply is extremely limited, and prices have skyrocketed. Housing affordability affects who can work and live here; how people can advance in their careers. It’s impacting our state and seems to be part of every conversation. 

Because of this Habitat’s work advocating to increase housing supply and remove barriers to homeownership has never been more important. The 2024 Legislative Session ended May 8. While in Denver our legislators debated over 700 hundred pieces of legislation, an unprecedented number related to housing.  

My key takeaway from this session is that it was a process-oriented year. Last year’s failed land use bill spurred legislators to break out elements of that bill (SB 23-213).  

The two bills from this session I am most excited about for our community are: 

  • Sustainable Affordable Housing Needs Assistance (SB 24-0174) requires local governments to assess their community’s housing needs every six years with the goal of compiling statewide data on existing and future housing needs along with a Housing Action Plan. I am excited that Eagle County has already started this process in advance of the legislation passing. It’s exciting to see our local governments working together on the assessment and the commitment to a regional action plan. Our valley is small, and it’s impossible to look for creative housing solutions in isolation. 
  • Local Government Property Tax Credits Rebates (SB 24-002) is a creative solution to the short-term rental debate. It will authorize boards of county commissioners to establish property tax credits for homeowners that choose to long-term rent their property. The ‘incentivize approach’ has proven successful in other land use bills as it’s a unique way to maintain local control while moving short-term rentals back to the long-term market.  

Not every bill passed will directly impact our rural communities, but they are important because they create data to inform future best practices.  

We must move the needle forward on the construction of more affordable homes. The cost to build continues to outpace wages. Our construction costs have increased 100% in the last four years, while AMI has gone up less than 40%. We, as a community, need to get comfortable with filling the gap between the cost to build and an affordable sale (or rental) price. In addition to finding sources to fill the growing subsidy, it will require policy changes to mitigate the escalating cost of insurance and property taxes. 

At Habitat, we pride ourselves on cost control but there is much we don’t have control over. Insurance Commissioner Study Insurance Market (HB-1108) will study the cost of HOAs and homeowner insurance. One bill that would have helped with the affordability gap was Right to Remedy Construction Defects (SB-206). It failed but I am hopeful we can figure this out. The number of condos being built in Colorado has dropped dramatically — in part due to the cost of wrap insurance.  

I am hopeful that with these land use and study bills signed into law, future legislation can focus on removing barriers to affordable homeownership, increasing affordable housing stock over all and how to best build out a robust housing continuum that promote economic and social mobility across our state. 

Elyse Howard advocates to increase housing supply. Join her as she works to make change.