Polis signs executive order to boost affordable housing

Nathaniel Minor/CPR News

Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed an executive order aimed at boosting affordable housing in Colorado.

The order directs the Colorado Department of Local Affairs’ housing division to speed up loans and grants and other state agencies to prioritize work aimed at shaping growth in the coming decades. 

Earlier this year, Polis’ administration pushed hard for a sweeping land use bill that would have allowed more density across many of the state’s cities. Polis hoped the legislation would have allowed for more townhomes, duplexes, and other more affordable types of homes to be built in more places. 

But the bill failed, leaving the governor to try to boost affordable housing through other means.. Monday’s executive order will have less impact than the bill, but Polis said it was imperative for his administration to keep pressing on the issue. 

“This executive order is doing everything the state can do with existing authority to turn around more housing quicker, for addressing the housing crisis than so many residents in our state face,” Polis said during a press conference in his office where he was flanked by dozens of supportive legislators, local officials, and affordable housing professionals.

Under the order, loans and grants for housing projects must be issued in no more than 90 days by July 2024. Those can currently take 240 days to process, Polis said. A faster turnaround is especially important after voters in 2022 approved Proposition 123, which sets aside hundreds of millions of dollars a year for affordable housing.

“In housing time is money,” Polis said. “It simply adds to cost when there are delays.”

The executive order also sets 10 “strategic growth goals” for the state that largely track with the goals from the failed land use bill: denser growth that is more water efficient, supportive of public transportation, and generally less resource intensive per capita.  

“It's fundamentally about our quality of life, about livability in our state,” he said.

Legislators who sponsored the doomed land use bill last year are continuing to work on similar bills for next session, Polis said.

“There are a lot of ongoing efforts,” he said.

Separately, a key legislator says she is working on a bill that would boost public transportation funding across the state.