The 2022 election ballots are out. This summer CPR and KRCC asked Coloradans about their biggest concerns. Housing and public safety were among the issues on many people’s minds. KRCC’s Shanna Lewis looked at local ballot measures in southern Colorado – and both of these issues turned up. She spoke with KRCC host Mike Procell about it.
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
MIKE PROCELL: You’ve reported on the housing challenges in Salida and Chaffee county. Now voters there have to decide on several ballot issues related to funding housing. Give us an overview of what prompted these measures.
SHANNA LEWIS: Like many places, Chaffee County has a housing shortage combined with skyrocketing home prices and rents. According to supporters of one of the measures, home ownership is out of reach for 91 percent of area households. Local businesses of all kinds and services like hospitals are having trouble finding employees because even people who make decent incomes can’t afford to live in the area. Dominique Naccarato serves on both the Salida City Council and the Chaffee Housing Authority, or CHA. She says they don’t use the term affordable housing.
DOMINIQUE NACCARATO: “When we use the term attainable housing or workforce housing, that's with the goal of people not being confused by that term affordable. But really, average people with two incomes in the home - we don't have any inventory for that type of housing either.”
PROCELL: So what’s on the Chaffee County and Salida ballots to address this situation?
LEWIS: Voters who live in the city of Salida will have to decide on four housing-related measures, including two that are countywide. One of the countywide issues, 6A, is a property tax. According to its supporters, if approved, it would add about $9 a month for the average home there. It could raise about $2.2 million in the first year. Those funds would go to CHA to help create the hundreds of new homes that supporters say are necessary every year to fill the county’s housing needs. The 6A revenue would also go toward rental subsidies, eviction prevention and down payment assistance.
Naccarato says she knows it's an added burden for some people, but they’d considered a sales tax and felt that it would hurt the people they were trying to help - the ones struggling for housing. Opponents of 6A, including people trying to develop more workforce housing, say it’s too much to add on top of other taxes and fees they already pay.
PROCELL: What other housing measures will Salida and Chaffee County voters consider?
LEWIS: There are two city of Salida measures that would raise existing taxes for short term rentals, which currently number about 230. It doesn’t apply to hotels and motels. If both are approved it’ll generate an estimated $800,000, which will likely be used to leverage additional grant money for housing.
Opponents of these measures say there’s not enough accountability for how the funds will be used and that it's unfair to those offering short term rentals.
PROCELL: And for the county?
LEWIS: The other countywide issue concerns the existing lodging tax. Currently it all goes to promoting tourism, which proponents say actually contributes to the housing shortage. If this measure is approved it’ll allow a portion of the lodging tax to be used to address workforce housing and childcare.
PROCELL: Public safety also came up in the voter survey. Did you find anything on ballots in our region related to this?
LEWIS: There are a number of communities where voters are considering measures that are either entirely or partially about funding public safety. For example, Costilla County is asking to raise sales taxes to improve or maintain adequate detention facilities, and for law enforcement operations, including staffing, training and replacing obsolete and failing equipment.
In Fremont County voters are being asked to extend a current school bond for safety upgrades and other improvements.
There are also public safety ballot issues in Pueblo, Fountain and Fowler.
PROCELL: Coloradans voted to legalize marijuana in 2012. Each year since then, dozens of counties and towns asked their residents to either allow it or ban it. Are there any marijuana ballot issues in our region this year?
Elsewhere in southern Colorado, voters in Cripple Creek and Palmer Lake will consider marijuana-related questions. And even Sugar City in Crowley County, with a total population of 259, is asking voters there to consider a five percent sales tax increase on marijuana. On the other side of the issue - in Lamar, there’s a citizen’s initiative that would prohibit marijuana businesses, cultivation facilities and impose other restrictions.
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