As the housing shortage continues to drive up prices, Greeley town leaders and developers are working to provide a wider range of housing options while leveraging partnerships to fund affordable housing projects .
Ben Snow, director of Greeley’s economic health and housing department, said the housing market continues to be incredibly tight for single and multi-family homes. A shortage of multi-family units has spurred construction over the past year, with nearly two-thirds of the city’s building permits in 2021 being for multi-family units.
In northern Colorado, that mix has been reversed, with single-family units accounting for nearly two-thirds of permits issued across the region, according to the city’s growth and development projections report.
While Greeley’s median household income increased 5.9% from 2018 to 2019, the median home sale price jumped 14.6% from 2020 to 2021. According to The Washington Postthe average rent in Weld County has increased 11.9% since 2019. For many renters and buyers, these factors make the housing market difficult to navigate.
City leaders are using a variety of tools to help relieve pressures and create a community where more local workers have the opportunity to find housing. The city’s update to its development code last year, for example, means more opportunities for different types of housing throughout the city.
Due to the time it takes for development to begin after the planning process begins, new code is not entirely obvious. But city leaders anticipate that these new opportunities will coincide with a new housing concept.
The city’s minimum lot size has been reduced from 6,000 square feet to 2,500 square feet in certain zoning districts. The mobile home zoning district has been extended to micro-housing, opening up opportunities for smaller homes and providing more opportunities for affordable development.
Carol Kuhn, the city’s chief planner, secured a $187,500 grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to conduct a housing needs assessment, with a matching $62,500 from the city. With this information, city officials plan to prioritize affordability zones and use sub-zone plans or overlay districts to give expedited review and reduced fees to those coming up with housing projects. affordable.
The city also uses private activity bonds to help support tax credit projects. By combining the city’s private activity obligation of about $6 million each year with about $8 million from the county, they were able to get about $14 million earmarked for the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, which can then grant the promoter tax credits to keep the project affordable.
Snow noted two projects backed by these bonds: Copper Platte at the east end of Greeley Mall, a 224-unit development with a median income requirement of 60% of the area, and Immaculata Plaza II, which will be a 30% media income for seniors. north of downtown Greeley.
The city has also applied for grants supported by recent legislation, a planning grant and another a catalyst grant. A partner organization and a project almost ready to be built are required. The city is considering the Greeley-Weld Habitat for Humanity’s Hope Springs project with a community partner, which is expected to include more than 300 apartments and 174 lots for Habitat homes.
The city has received the planning grant and hopes to get a final decision on the catalyst grant in a few weeks.
Cheri Witt-Brown, executive director of Greeley-Weld Habitat, said the partnership will be similar in some ways to the nonprofit’s partnership with Commonwealth to develop Mission Springs in Evans. Hope Springs’ partner, a local developer, is donating both resources and labor, which takes much of the pressure off the Habitat team, Witt-Brown said. Partnerships like this are crucial for Greeley-Weld Habitat to develop larger-scale projects, Witt-Brown said.
Hope Springs should include amenities to form a more complete neighborhood, with on-site daycare, nearby grocery stores – with the project located near Walmart and Sam’s Club off 23rd Avenue – access to public transportation and recreational opportunities including a mini soccer field and a disc golf facility.
“The amenities we’re putting into this project are very intentional about how our families live,” Witt-Brown said. “And the way they like to socialize, recreate… This idea is to demonstrate that affordable housing communities should not be less than.”
The city is also pushing for amenities as part of a way to support smaller housing choices. Snow said the average house size has steadily increased since the end of World War II, when traditional houses were much smaller. But changing demographics are leading to a larger market for smaller, higher-quality homes with more community-shared space.
“We’re really looking forward to having a community built by design and not by default,” said Becky Safarik, Director of Community Development.
The city’s long-term growth will require a change in density in some way, Snow said, with 110,000 people today in about 50 square miles and long-term growth estimates of 250,000 people in 90 miles. squares. While it’s not for everyone or every location in the city, some people want to be close to amenities, parks, infrastructure, and public transportation. It’s up to the city to nurture a whole spectrum, he says.
In addition to reducing construction costs, Safarik said the city is working to attract better paying jobs to the community so that local workers can also afford to live in the city.
“It’s not just the labor market and not just housing, it’s also the quality of life. These are people who volunteer, give philanthropic donations, improve the quality of life in their own community, experience community,” Safarik said. “If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere, that’s usually where you invest your time and your treasures. It is this balanced and sustainable lifestyle that we are really trying to promote.