What is the Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan project?

    It is a project being undertaken by the City of Wheat Ridge in order to assess housing affordability challenges in the community; identify potential tools and resources that could help address challenges if they exist; and outline action steps that match the right tools and resources to the challenges.

    Why is the City taking it on now?

    The State of Colorado views housing affordability as one of the biggest issues facing the state, as declared in House Bill 21-1271. With this, the state government created a new grant program for local governments to address the issue. The city of Wheat Ridge lacks City policies addressing housing affordability, so the city applied for and was awarded a $150,000 grant to complete an Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan. 

    What does “affordable” mean when it comes to housing?

    By federal government definitions, housing is considered “affordable” when it costs less than 30% of a household’s gross income, and those spending more than 30% on housing are considered “cost-burdened”. Because the metric is a percentage, and not just an absolute number, affordability is relative. 

    • For example, a household with an annual income of $40,000 spending $1,000 per month or more on housing is considered cost-burdened.  
    • A household with an annual income of $80,000 spending $2,000 per month or more on housing is considered cost-burdened.  
    • A household with an annual income of $200,000 spending $5,000 per month or more on housing is considered cost-burdened. 

    Does Wheat Ridge have an affordability problem?

    Simply put, yes, according to federal definitions of affordability. According to the latest available data from 2020, about one-third of Wheat Ridge households paid at least 30% of their annual income toward housing, including over half of the city’s renter households.

    Can the City of Wheat Ridge do anything about housing affordability in the community?

    Local governments do have tools at their disposal to address housing affordability. It is important, however, to set realistic expectations. Local governments do not control housing demand, the incomes of households, nor the prices at which private individuals or entities offer rental or for-sale housing. Affordable housing interventions by local governments can solve affordability problems for a finite number of households in the community, but the vast majority of households will always be subject to market conditions. The Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan will explore a range of tools, many of which are set forth in State of Colorado House Bill 21-1271. Such tools include but are not limited to development fee waivers for affordable housing, zoning rules that allow different housing types at appropriate locations, or new city programs and partnerships to help retain existing affordable housing units. 

    What will the outcome of the Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan be?

    The result of the project will be a written report, a recommended policy framework that will support future city decisions on this issue, and a recommended set of action steps that support the policy framework that the city can take. The written report will include data and analysis about affordability in Wheat Ridge, as well as analysis of which types of tools might be the most feasible and appropriate. The policy framework will offer goals and objectives developed in consultation with city council. The action steps will speak to specific next steps the city will need to take in order to work toward meeting its policy goals.

    What will NOT be accomplished in this project?

    The project will not, in and of itself, enact any specific housing affordability tools. For example, it will not allocate any financial resources, make any zoning changes, or establish any local incentives.