Lack of housing in Grand hurting community health
Grand County’s lack of housing was spotlighted in a community conversation hosted by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless as part of a series of discussions being had around the state to address housing concerns.
On Thursday, a few dozen residents joined Grand County Housing Director Sheena Darland and East Grand Superintendent Frank Reeves, among other panelists from the coalition, to highlight the existing need and brainstorm solutions.
A heavy focus of the night was the total lack of housing options in Grand County. According to the Grand County Board of Realtors’ multi-list service, there are 44 single family homes on the market locally. Of those homes, only 11 are priced at less than $1 million.
“It’s not just that we don’t have affordable housing, we don’t have inventory of any sort,” Darland said.
Speaking to the impact of the lack of housing, Reeves said it’s one of the most frequently cited barriers to hiring and retaining teachers and staff.
The school district isn’t alone in this problem, with a number of local employers struggling to attract and keep staff, including the county government.
“Slowly withering away at the quality of our school district is this hidden problem with housing,” Reeves said. “We can’t allow this trend to continue.”
Beyond the adverse effects to the workforce, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless reports that being homeless can lower the average American’s life expectancy by 30 years as compared to a housed person.
Both Reeves and Darland noted a variety of housing types are needed in Grand beyond single family homes, including multi-family and seasonal housing.
While there are housing developments ongoing throughout the county, the high cost of building locally means most of the units in the works won’t address the need for affordable housing, Darland added.
Statistics from the coalition showed that roughly a third of renters and homeowners in Grand County are cost burdened.
Going hand in hand with the need for more housing, the discussion also focused on how to build the local capacity to address housing, including by creating a regional housing authority, which could bring existing efforts under one organization.
“I think we need to establish an entity, such as a regional housing authority, that can work collaboratively with current entities in our communities and work solely on developing and providing housing options,” Darland said. “I’ve worked with other housing authorities that have so many great options for our residents that we just can’t bring here because we don’t have the capacity.”
Darland added that public-private partnerships have helped bring affordable housing to Grand through programs like low-income housing tax credits and deed restrictions, suggesting growing those options could help create more inventory for the county’s workforce.
“I truly feel that until we, as Grand County as a whole, come together and really make some decisions (around) supporting, building, managing or finding affordable housing, then we’re all just spinning our wheels,” Darland said.
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