In a bid to accelerate affordable housing development in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order Monday that expedites loan and grant approval processes while directing a suite of state agencies to prioritize programs to help prepare the state for years of coming population growth.
The order sets out 10 “strategic growth goals” for Colorado in the coming years, a nod both to the state’s current housing shortage and to its projected needs. It directs the state’s Division of Housing to expedite signing contracts with approved grant and loan recipients. Polis told The Denver Post that will cut the timeline for money to reach recipients — like affordable housing developers — from eight months to 90 days. Affordable housing advocates and developers have long lamented the delays, which can run up to a year or more and add time and money to already tight budgets.
The order doesn’t allocate any additional funding, and its impacts will be far less sweeping than what Polis and his allies had sought during the legislature this spring, when they attempted to increase density and development across Colorado. But the order was a nod to those broader objectives, and the governor said Monday that it was important to “show that the state is doing everything that we can to get money out quickly.”
Polis said the state needs to expedite its own timelines and use its “moral authority to remove any state barriers to housing” as it urges local governments to accelerate their own processes. Cutting through red tape and expediting delays on the local level were frequent talking points during the spring’s land-use fight.
“We hope this can drive more housing quicker to help meet the real life needs that Coloradans have to find housing options to fit in their budget,” Polis told the Post. “In addition to reducing red tape, it also aligns our state role around smart growth priorities.”
The need to expedite timelines is particularly important now, the governor said, given that Proposition 123 will extend hundreds of millions of dollars in new housing funding to local governments and housing providers in the coming years. The program also requires local governments to jumpstart their own approval processes.
The order, though limited, continues the same broader arguments and approaches that propelled the legislature’s land-use reform discussions earlier this year. The order directs several state agencies — including those overseeing public health, transportation and economic development — to consider strategic goals including reducing urban sprawl in open-space and agricultural areas, promoting and expanding public transit, and incentivizing housing development “for every budget that will accommodate our expected population growth.”
Concerns about the state’s future growth are evident throughout the order’s preamble. It warns that the state is short tens of thousands of housing units and will add 1.72 million new residents by 2050.
The state agencies named in Polis’ order have until mid-December to catalogue a wide range of their own internal programs and prioritize the ones that meet the growth goals. Polis said at a Monday press conference that he wanted to align the state’s “limited resources” across agencies to ensure Colorado meets “livability and sustainability goals.”
Monday’s order comes as some Democratic lawmakers have begun to restart talks on how to reform land-use statewide, months after Polis’ sweeping attempt to do so collapsed in the final hours of the 2023 legislative session. Those same debates — about whether to reform single-family zoning across the state to allow for more development — are likely to return this coming session, lawmakers and housing advocates say, albeit in a more piecemeal approach.
The first attempt was stifled earlier this year by a coalition of local governments, Republican lawmakers and some Democrats, all of whom broadly argued that cities and towns should be left to make zoning decisions for themselves.
Monday’s unveiling of the order included not only several state agencies but two of the House members who sponsored the land-use reform measure this year: Democratic Reps. Iman Jodeh and Steven Woodrow. The Colorado Municipal League, a staunch opponent of the governor’s land-use reform plans, received an advanced draft copy of the executive order so it could provide feedback.
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