That might be your first reaction when you hear the terms “affordable housing” and “attainable housing.”
Yet they are different.
“Affordable housing” is a term of art that describes efforts to make housing available to people whose incomes fall below some fraction of the Average Median Income. It’s a real problem, and there are government tools to provide decent housing that does not cost more than 30 percent of gross income (or some similar measure). The governmental tools include low income tax credits, subsidies to cover horizontal development costs, and rent vouchers.
Yet the term “attainable housing” is more broadly inclusive and imagines that some housing cannot be attained for people with middle class incomes. Gentrification and overheated real estate markets can price people with full time, excellent jobs out of the housing. Units of local government can impose development fees to make housing more attainable for people whose income exceeds the average median income, and loan subsidies and other tools play a role as well.
Taken together, promoting “attainable housing” is a more inclusive term that describes the challenges in the SCEDD region. In Chaffee County and some others, hot real estate demand pushes prices up and out of reach for many. In Custer County, second home development keeps many properties off the local residential market, and the ability to make more money renting to tourists and seasonal residents an create attainable housing shortages. On the Eastern Plains, deferred maintenance of owner-occupied and rental units can drive down appraised values, making it difficult for home purchases or new construction to be bankable.
Though the causes are different, the problem is similar—a lack of attainable housing for those who want to live in southern Colorado. To make southern Colorado prosper, housing has to be broadly attainable.
SCEDD has a role in identifying the problem and helping to coordinate strategies to attack this problem. The development of the upcoming Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) will play a role in planning the next five years of effort.
At SCEDD, we see our role as planners and convenors who take a regional approach. Beyond our role of planning and technical assistance, we intend to help non-profit and for-profit developers build capacity to do more.
Please keep an eye on this space as we add resources.