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City polls: No more money for housing



If comments from city leaders are any indication, the city will not allocate any additional money from the city budget to provide affordable housing to low-income families in the near future.

Speaking at an informal Council meeting Monday, Colorado Springs City Council members supported many recommendations of a city-appointed committee set up two years ago to study the city's housing crunch and to recommend potential solutions.

Among other things, the committee suggested that the city encourage low-income housing by streamlining the development process for developers of affordable housing; promote the use of manufactured homes; consider providing utility lines at no cost to developers of affordable housing; and allow residents with "accessory" garages or outbuildings to fill those units with tenants.

But a majority of Council members said they were wary of another key committee recommendation: a housing trust fund that would be used to leverage private, federal and non-profit contributions. The committee suggested a range of potential revenue sources for the trust fund, from new sales taxes to development fees.

Citing the current budget shortfall, along with local voters' general unwillingness to support tax hikes, Council members all but nixed the idea. "I'm personally very nervous about this idea," said Councilwoman Joanne Colt. "I don't see how, in the future, the city is going to have the resources."

In the end, the council member said, staff could continue exploring the trust-fund idea as long as it would not require any additional money from the city's general fund. Last year, the city spent $228,685 for housing-related programs.

On Monday, members of the Housing Advocacy Coalition picketed the city administration building in support of a greater city commitment to low-income homes. But they are not the only ones upset by the Council's unwillingness to put real dollars toward affordable housing.

"I've heard all of these council people talk with heart and feeling about the need for affordable housing," said a visibly disappointed Dottie Harman, a citizen volunteer who served for more than two years on the affordable-housing committee. "What we need is for them to do is to take it to the next level. From what I saw today, the leadership on this issue is not great."

Without any city money, she suggested, it will be hard to leverage adequate outside funding. "I'm all for public-private partnerships. I just thought the city was going to be a partner in that process," she said.

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