Reporter-Herald – By Leah Johnson

Loveland’s Affordable and Achievable Housing shortage has reached a critical mass.

I hear constantly from people whose children want to move back, but their “kids” simply can’t afford to live in Loveland. I recently had a conversation with a homeless mother in our community, who has a master’s degree, whose family lost their home due to overwhelming medical bills. I’ve spoken to a woman in her 70s and 40-year resident of Loveland, whose husband passed away leaving her with virtually nothing to pay her bills; she was so grateful for the senior affordable housing unit that was available to her here in Loveland.

Today in Loveland, we have more than 500 children identified as “underhoused” in the Thompson School District, more than 2,500 people on the wait list at the Loveland Housing Authority, thousands more who are rent burdened paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing, and thousands more who feel the American dream of owning their own home seems like nothing more than a dream for their parents generation.

The shortage of affordable and achievable housing in Loveland and Northern Colorado is not something we can just say is a challenge — rather it has reached a critical point where we need to take more aggressive action. Far too many families, children, seniors, and veterans are facing housing challenges, and we as a community can, and should, do more.

The Loveland City Council has had more than a half dozen conversations over the past six months about homelessness, affordable housing and achievable housing. I think as a council we have paid enough lip service to the fact that our community is facing a great challenge in the areas of housing, and now is the time for action.

I am not saying we can fix all the problems merely by passing a few resolutions; the challenge is certainly monumental, but just because we can’t solve it all at once doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take action. As council members, we have one opportunity to begin to take steps to chip away at the problem this coming Tuesday night, with a resolution supporting the city of Loveland’s partnership with both the Loveland Housing Authority and Loveland Habitat for Humanity, supporting the next 335 units with the Housing Authority and 35 units with Loveland Habitat, a much-needed opportunity; however, this only a sliver of the solution to address the shortage of units needed to house those in our community.

I assert that we need to go further — so I am proposing The Agenda for Loveland’s Housing Future, a four-pronged approach that looks at creating permanent housing funding and solutions to address items across the housing spectrum and help decrease the burden of costs associated with housing so many of our residents face. This list of priorities includes:

1. Partnering with the Real Estate and development community to have a real conversation about fees and look at fee reductions and/or waivers that would allow the development of more achievable units.

2. Ardently, exploring broad community partnerships for permanent supportive housing for those who are homeless in this community.

3. Creating a down payment assistance fund for first-time homebuyers who are employees of the city of Loveland and the Thompson School District to buy their first home in Loveland — helping firefighters, teachers, police officers and beyond live in the community they serve.

4. A dedicated housing fund that makes a budgetary commitment to our partners and the community, about where we stand on housing.

Moving forward, I look forward to having community conversations about these aspects of a housing plan. I will host a series of housing town hall meetings, the first at LoCo Artisan Coffee Shop at 9 a.m. Feb. 18. I hope you will join me.

The challenges facing Loveland are the challenges of real people. They are our neighbors, child’s classmates, co-workers, veterans, small business owners, mothers, fathers, grandmas and grandfathers. They are us, and we all deserve the opportunity to have a place to call home. The Loveland I know and love, the place that sheltered and raised me, takes care of its own, and I intend to fight every day of my term as your councilwoman, and beyond, to ensure those who call Loveland home have a home to call their own.

Leah Johnson represents Ward II on the Loveland City Council.

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