​May 8, 2017

Housing Leaders Partner to Preserve Affordability of Colorado Rental Units 

Megan Herrera​

Nearly 5,000 units of affordable rental housing preserved as Colorado's new Housing Preservation Network leads initiative

(DENVER) – Colorado's population is growing by nearly 100,000 new residents each year but construction of new affordable rental housing is far behind demand. Adding to the problem is the risk of existing affordable rental housing units converting to market rate, as affordability restrictions on approximately 22,000 units are set to expire over the next decade. Colorado's new Housing Preservation Network (HPN) is focused on preserving Colorado's affordable rental housing stock, and in only one year, has helped to preserve 4,977 affordable rental housing units by supporting property improvements, and extending rental assistance and affordability contracts. 

HPN was formed in 2016 and is comprised of Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA), Colorado Department of Local Affairs-Division of Housing (DOLA-DOH), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), USDA, local governments such as City and County of Denver, Adams County, City of Colorado Springs, City of Golden, local housing authorities, Enterprise Community Partners, Mile High Connects, Mile High Community Loan Fund, and many others.

"The creation of HPN and the commitment to affordable housing preservation is extremely timely. Affordability restriction expirations and the aging of properties are occurring simultaneously—meanwhile, Colorado is in a housing crisis. HPN is focused on implementing solutions to keep as many units affordable as possible, and sustain affordable rental properties to ensure they remain safe, decent places to live for several more decades," said Beth Truby, CHFA preservation program manager.

In 2016, HPN adopted an aggressive strategic plan to put into action its statewide preservation efforts. A top priority was the development of a comprehensive database to identify, track, and monitor properties most at risk of losing rental assistance, or income and occupancy restrictions. In addition, HPN partner, CHFA, expanded financing options for properties in need of renovations by approving such projects to compete for state Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). Prior to this, these projects were limited to applying for federal LIHTC only.

"Colorado has a thriving economy that is putting much pressure on our housing stock and pricing many Coloradans out. Our collective efforts to preserve housing is an important priority, just as important as building new," said Alison George, DOLA-DOH housing director.

In the Denver Metro area, the median rent is $1,301, which is considered affordable to households earning $52,040 annually. Among the City and County of Denver's efforts to address affordable rental housing include its affordable housing preservation ordinance.

"While production of new affordable units is important, it's critical for the city to help preserve our existing stock of income-restricted rentals," said Erik Soliván, executive director of Denver's Office of Housing and Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE). "Denver's preservation ordinance is a key tool and serves as the foundation of our broader strategy to extend affordability."

In the past decade, the affordability of more than 1.2 million rental housing units nationwide have been lost. As affordable properties continue to age, preservation will remain a point of emphasis in Colorado and across the U.S. HPN's model to combine the use of its robust database, leveraged partnerships, and prioritized resources has laid a strong foundation on which to carry out its solutions for affordable rental housing preservation.