Habitat column: HB 1195 offers new incentives to support affordable home ownership | PostIndependent.com

Habitat column: HB 1195 offers new incentives to support affordable home ownership

Scott Gilbert
Guest Opinion

“Because of this house, I have an amazing bright future for myself and for my children.”

Angel Meza is sitting on the front porch of the home she bought with an affordable mortgage from Habitat for Humanity and reflecting on how the stability of becoming a homeowner has strengthened her family. It was not so long ago that she was moving frequently and struggling to find an affordable place to rent.

“Having four kids and trying to find a decent, affordable place to live is extremely difficult. It’s probably one of the hardest tasks as a single parent — to find a location that is big enough, that you can afford and that is safe. In the past, it was extremely hard. I juggled staying with friends and family and staying in places that were way too small — maybe one or two bedrooms. We had to make it work.”

In Colorado, Angel’s story is not unique. The costs of housing have been skyrocketing for years, while wage growth has not kept pace. The home ownership rate in our state is declining, and the dream of owning a home remains out of reach for far too many essential community members like school teachers, first responders, and health-care workers. The challenge extends from our cities to suburban and rural areas where area wages are too often not enough to make ends meet.

The result? Fewer quality housing options at prices fewer Coloradans can afford.

It’s time to take action. This legislative session, Colorado lawmakers are working on a good policy solution that will give more Coloradans the opportunity to experience the stability of home ownership. HB 18-1195 leverages private funds to build affordable homes in Colorado by incentivizing philanthropic contributions to nonprofits building affordable for-sale homes.

The bill would provide a 50 percent tax credit for individual, or corporate donations, of up to $250,000 toward a qualifying nonprofit developing new for-sale housing affordable to households earning up to 120 percent of the area median income.

Locally, it would be a big boost to Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork’s teacher and workforce home building partnership with Pitkin County, the town of Basalt and the Roaring Fork School District for a teacher housing project in Basalt.

This tax credit for donations to affordable home-building efforts is huge as we endeavor to raise over $2 million to close the gap on the 27 homes.

Habitat for Humanity’s Colorado affiliates are the largest providers of affordable home ownership in the state with 2,600 homes built, renovated, and repaired to date. Through 40 years of work, we’ve seen the positive effects of home ownership ripple throughout Colorado communities.

When families like Angel’s achieve financial stability through affordable home ownership, they no longer have to make tradeoffs in order to cover their housing payments. Tradeoffs typically include cutting back on health care or healthy food, or getting a second job to cover bills.

Home ownership provides economic mobility. Home equity is the leading asset Coloradans can leverage to start a business, finance a college education, or invest in other activities.

Home ownership reduces public assistance need. According to a recent study by The Evaluation Center at CU Denver, an estimated $1.5 million in public assistance funding was saved in 2016 because Habitat homeowners just in metro Denver alone no longer needed it.

Home ownership boosts our economy. Habitat for Humanity homeowners throughout the state contribute approximately $3.1 million in property taxes each year.

Communities throughout our state need the right mix of safe, stable rental units and for-sale housing that hardworking Coloradans at all income levels can afford. HB 18-1195 is a bipartisan bill that incentivizes public private partnerships to create affordable, for-sale homes.

House bill 1195 offers a powerful solution to increase affordable housing in Colorado, and now is the time to raise our voices for individuals and families who desperately need the stability of home ownership. Contact your state lawmakers today to let them know that affordable home ownership is imperative to the future of our state. Considering that Colorado’s home values have increased by 8.6 percent in the last year alone, we can’t wait any longer. Now is the time to act.

This column was written on behalf of Habitat for Humanity’s 25 Colorado affiliates. Scott Gilbert is executive director for Habitat for Humanity of the Roaring Fork Valley.