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Affordable Housing Board Meeting 12/7/23

by Kevin Stearns

For more information see the full notes document here.*

View the meeting agenda.

“Advises the City Council on matters pertaining to affordable housing issues of concern to the City.” - Affordable Housing Board Website

Key Points

  1. A protest has challenged the validity of the referendum against the new Land Use Code.

  2. Outreach Fort Collins has expanded homeless services south along College Avenue.

  3. Insurance is increasing across the nation, leading to higher HOA fees.

Board Members

Ed Hermsen

Jennifer Bray

Kristin Fritz

John Singleton (Chair)

Sheila Seaver

Stefanie Berganini

Others Present

Meaghan Overton, Housing Manager

Brad Rhoda, Director of Outreach Fort Collins

Protesters Challenge Preserve Fort Collins Petition

Preserve Fort Collins has received enough validated signatures to attempt to repeal the new Land Use Code. The petition can force the City Council to act, but cannot determine what that action is. They could repeal the Land Use Code, change it as they did last time, or refer the action of adopting the code to the voters.

According to Meaghan Overton, the validity of the entire petition has been challenged by local protesters. As a result, the city manager will have to designate a hearing officer so that a public hearing can be conducted under oath to determine if the petition from Preserve Fort Collins is enough to cause a referendum.

Board Member Stephanie Berganini said the massive amounts of misinformation in the Preserve Fort Collins petition are a “huge concern” for the Affordable Housing Board. John Singleton expressed frustration that Preserve Fort Collins was invited to speak multiple times with the city, but declined. He sees the organization as “not pushing for what's good for the community in order to achieve what a small handful of people want; ignoring the facts, effort, and intentionality that the city is putting into it.”

The referendum process is part of the city code charter. A charter amendment could be put on the ballot to require that petitions have accurate information on them.

It is still unclear what is going to happen. There hasn't been a public hearing of this kind since 2011.

Outreach Fort Collins Expands South

Outreach Fort Collins is a local organization focused on issues surrounding the city's homeless population. It is focused on de-escalating issues with the homeless, getting people into supportive housing, and connecting them with the resources each individual needs.

In September last year, Outreach Fort Collins expanded South into midtown. They are focused on the College Avenue corridor and now extend all the way to Redtail Ponds. They are looking to expand their hours of operation in addition to the area they operate, hoping to extend operations into the mornings. Outreach Fort Collins wants to be a beacon for the community in the process by paying their people well and making sure they get the time off they need.

Brad Rhota discussed how operating in the South of the city comes with its own challenges because the homeless found in that area are often the ones who wish to avoid the North part of the city and stay off the radar. Providing services can be challenging when it’s tough to find the homeless residents. These services can include education about shelters and homelessness resources, or warnings about incoming storms. Shelters no longer require breathalyzer tests, and as long as people are able to cooperate with others they will be welcome, even if they are drunk or high. On especially harsh nights, any bans are lifted to let people in. People who cause problems can still be kicked out despite the weather.

The service is free for anyone to use, but it is not capable of handling everything. No one can be forced to do what they do not want to do. According to Brad Rhoda, Director of Outreach, most people don't want to be homeless even if some choose it. He agreed with the board that housing costs could be leading people into homelessness. Also, the drug issues in Fort Collins are getting worse, and drugs like fentanyl and meth can make it virtually impossible to de-escalate situations. On the plus side, participation in HMIS (Homeless Management Information System) is increasing, which is helping to generate the data needed to provide help.

In 2024 there are plans to collaborate with other organizations in cities such as Loveland in order to work regionally and be able to connect people throughout the area to services, even in other cities, where they can get assistance.

Other Updates

Marilyn Heller, a member of the community, told the board about the “Hope Springs” project  by Alquist3D in Greeley. They are moving their headquarters to Greeley and will be building 10 3-D printed homes there. 

The Affordable Housing Board is planning its 4-hour retreat that will take place in January in addition to its regular meeting. City representatives will also be there. The focus will be on the education function of the board and improvement community involvement. Homelessness is also going to be a greater focus for the board in 2024.

The new council term is starting next year and the new City Council will be getting together at a retreat to discuss their top goals. The retreat will be on Jan. 26 and 27.

Stefanie Berganini noted that a lot of the more affordable housing in Fort Collins has an HOA (Homeowners Association). Due to rising insurance costs, HOA fees are increasing dramatically. Meaghan Overton, who lives in a townhome, confirmed that her own costs are rising. According to her, the city doesn't have much authority over HOAs, so any legislation affecting them would have to be made at the state level. Even then, the underlying issue is caused by the rapid increase in all insurance rates nationally.

Followup Questions

What can citizens do if they wish to help support or oppose the new Land Use Code during the referendum?

Is homelessness increasing in Fort Collins?

Is any state legislator focused on alleviating the rising cost of insurance for HOAs?

*Citizen Observers further the commitment of the League of Women Voters to its principle of Citizens Right to Know, however, we are not acting as journalists. Omissions and errors are possible. It is assumed that users of this information are responsible for their own fact-checking. This could include contacting a government clerk, conversing with an elected official or staff, and/or asking us to speak to the Observer who attended.

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