Chamber Committed to Addressing Housing Affordability
It has been the rare conversation over the past few years in which the subject of housing has not come up. Small retailers, large manufacturers and virtually every business in between has been impacted by the cost and availability of housing within our region. Some may wonder why housing is an issue for the Chamber of Commerce when only a portion of our membership are in the business of building, selling and renting residential real estate.
The answer, of course, is relatively straight forward. Human capital is a key element of any successful business plan.
Business thrives according to its ability to attract, retain and grow the capacity of its workforce. To that end, employees are better engaged and productive when safe, appropriate housing options are readily available and fit comfortably within their budget. The Chamber has long been an advocate for housing choice and affordability, but the sense of urgency has grown considerably since the Great Recession.
Originally formed as a collaboration between the Fort Collins Board of Realtors, Northern Colorado Home Builders Association and City of Fort Collins, NoCo Housing Now is a regional effort to convene expertise, research and knowledge sharing. In 2017, the Chamber assumed a leadership role in the effort to expand the audience while emphasizing the need to address the issue across Larimer and Weld Counties. You can learn more at NoCo Housing NOW – Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce (fortcollinschamber.com) and we invite you join us on June 3rd from 10:30 to noon at The Ranch for our next quarterly event as we introduce an initiative to create consistent messaging around the subject of housing affordability among other topics.
Closer to home, the Chamber formed a Housing Task Force to engage directly with the City of Fort Collins as it considered revisions to its Housing Strategic Plan. Among the early wins was to broaden the scope of discussion to consider impacts to housing costs across the income spectrum rather limiting the discussion to low-income households. While the cost burdens are particularly acute for those of lesser means, too often local government exacerbates the problem by shifting regulatory costs to households above the designated income threshold.
This involvement further compelled the City to consider how its own land use code and zoning ordinances adversely impacts housing costs. To support that effort, a separate working group of Chamber members was formed to thoroughly review the code and make specific recommendations to better align the code with the overall vision of the community. Formal staff recommendations will be considered by Council this summer.
As we have leaned heavily into this space, the Chamber and its members have become go-to resources for the City and County, but also provide technical expertise for others within the community. When a newly-formed nonprofit sought expertise in developing a business model as they worked toward the purchase of a mobile home park on behalf of its residents, they called the Chamber. As other leaders formed a task group to consider how best to deploy federal stimulus dollars to support housing and other critical needs, the Chamber was at the table. And when a local general contractor decided to fully engage in the redevelopment of properties into housing for our workforce, the Chamber was able to offer the necessary expertise.
A tremendous amount of work still sits squarely in our windshield, but with the commitment of the Chamber Board of Directors to move the needle on this issue we are confident our most valuable resource will have a place to call home.