DENVER | Facing sky-high housing prices, Colorado residents have voted to direct an estimated $300 million a year to affordable housing projects by rewriting the state’s tax law.
As housing crises bubble up nationwide, the measure was the only statewide affordable housing initiative in the country to make the 2022 election ballot, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The measure, Proposition 123, narrowly passed with about 52% of state voters approving it, according to unofficial results Monday, with some votes yet to be counted.
“It will make Colorado the first state in the country to be on the path to solve the affordable housing crisis,” said Mike Johnston, president and CEO of Gary Community Ventures, an organization focused on housing that was behind the midterm measure.
Johnston said he believes the measure, which creates a permanent stream of funding for housing and homelessness, “will quickly become a national model for taking on affordable housing.”
The initiative directs 0.1% of Colorado’s taxable income to programs that include helping essential workers such as teachers and nurses buy homes, while financially supporting local governments to increase housing stock by 3% every year.
Proponents of the proposition estimate it will create 170,000 houses and rental units over two decades. They say that will help make up part of what U.S. Census Bureau data shows is a shortage of about 225,000 homes in Colorado.
Although the measure didn’t have an organized opposition, it faced some opposition because it will eat into tax refunds guaranteed to residents under a state constitutional amendment called the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, which voters tend to favor.
TABOR caps the amount of money the government can spend annually and mandates refunds of any revenue surpassing that cap. For the 2021 tax year, Colorado taxpayers each received $750 refunds.
Michael Fields, senior advisor to the conservative group Advance Colorado Action, which opposed the measure, said he believes that the the initiative would’ve failed if there had been a coordinated opposition and if more voters knew it would reduce TABOR checks.
Now that it has passed, said Fields, “there’s a big test for this coming up: Does it follow through on the promises of building units, driving down costs and helping homeless people?”