Encourage building of more affordable housing – The Fort Collins Coloradoan

  • May 17, 2015
  • By: Greenpath Financial Wellness


Over the past few months, I have become increasingly aware of the housing shortage affecting many in our community. We need to encourage more affordable housing.

My awareness jumped to a whole new level when I found out about a young family — a husband, wife, and their 3-year-old child — that lives in their car because they cannot find a place to live. Even more disturbing to me was the fact that the wife is working and the husband just got a job. The stable housing they need and can afford is just not available.

In our community, we have what is known as Section 8 Housing, which is essentially housing for those who cannot pay anything. We also have subsidized, affordable housing designed for low-income, working families. What I am discovering is that for many families, neither of these options is readily available.

Waiting lists for Section 8 Housing and subsidized housing run from 18 months to three years, depending on the number of bedrooms required. What would you do if you had to wait for more than two years to get into housing you can afford? Often, low-income families spend more than half their income for rent or mortgage payments, leaving them particularly vulnerable to eviction or foreclosure if their income is interrupted. Many local families are one crisis away from being homeless.

What is the cause of this housing problem? Is it the cost of rental property? Or is it a lack of jobs that pay a living wage? It seems to be a combination of all of these things: rising costs, low vacancy rates and a disincentive to build condo units and a growing population.

What can we do to help the many people in our community struggling to secure affordable housing? To start, we all need to support the work of the Fort Collins Housing Authority and the Loveland Housing Authority in their efforts to create more affordable housing units in our community.

And we must continue to support the efforts of many of United Way’s Community Impact Partners that work tirelessly to provide prevention services to families before they lose their homes. Neighbor to Neighbor, Homelessness Prevention Initiative (HPI), GreenPath, WorkLife Partnership and Make Change NoCo (VITA – Free Tax Prep), among others, work with families to provide emergency rent or mortgage assistance, pay down debt and increase credit and utilize assets to secure housing.

I would also suggest we let our City Council members know we support the updating of the Affordable Housing Strategic Plan and ask for their strong support for efforts to encourage the building of more affordable housing.

In Larimer County, we don’t sit on the sidelines while our fellow community members struggle. We need to help people today, like the local working family living out their car with their 3-year-old child, and build a stronger foundation for tomorrow so more families can create a future filled with promise and opportunity. Together, we can make a difference that will impact our community for generations to come.

Gordan Thibedeau is president and CEO of United Way of Larimer County.