OMAR MONTGOMERY: With more housing options, Aurora will be the best city to live in Colorado

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I am running to be Aurora’s next mayor because I want Aurora to be the best city in Colorado to work, play and live.

One of the essential components to making that happen is for Aurora to address our housing needs. Aurora is growing — yet we are experiencing affordable housing shortages, the highest rent increases in the country, and limited home ownership choices for young adults, older adults, and families.

Having a stable place to live means a healthier community. Children with stable homes perform better at school, people’s work productivity is increased, anxiety and mental health conditions are reduced for all, and crime is decreased. With more housing options multi-generational families can stay and live in the same city.

Our diverse communities, who are the backbone of our city, are not displaced. Developing various housing options, including executive homes, will attract companies to come to Aurora to have all employees live and have a great quality of life.

Affordable homes throughout the city will support the local workforce so they can live close to their jobs. Shorter commutes allow workers to spend more time with their families while the community benefits from reductions in traffic congestion, air pollution, and expenditures on roads.

How do we make this happen? The City of Aurora recently conducted a study to develop a housing strategy that was presented at the last special study session.  The next mayor and city council will oversee recommendations and implementation. If I am honored to be our city’s next mayor, I will lead the charge. Some of the strategies include:

Set Housing Goals: Conduct market study and develop goals for affordable and market rate housing based on current and future population growth.
Increase Resources: Create a housing trust fund to enable the city to strategically assist with future housing projects or programs, and to respond to the housing shortage. We can partner with corporations, foundations, banks, investors and others to acquire land.
Preserve and Increase Supply: Conduct a vacancy study and identify and set aside land for mixed income housing, working with our schools and counties to identify suitable public property.

Strategic Use of Current Funding: Plan smartly with our housing infrastructure dollars, including the Urban Renewal Authority funding and state and federal funds — to support local affordable housing developers and work with land trust partners.
Be Creative with Incentives: Provide an incentive for homebuilders who set aside property as part of projects – for the city to build up land trust areas for more housing options.
Support Community Land Trusts: A community land trust acquires property and maintains ownership of it permanently. When the homeowner sells, the family earns only a portion of the increased property value. The remainder is kept by the trust, preserving the affordability.

Improve Our Processes: Streamline development and rezoning approvals and waive or reduce development fees for developers committed to affordable housing and land trust set asides. We could also expand the definition of affordable housing to allow for flexibility in design standards.

These are some of the policies I will support and want to see our city leadership working towards. I believe when more Aurora families have affordable and accessible housing, transportation, and good jobs, our city is more welcoming and prosperous. We can be the best place in Colorado to live and thrive – if we work together.

Omar Montgomery is a candidate for Aurora mayor