When it comes to solving Colorado Springs’ dearth of affordable housing, the candidates running for City Council in the April 2 election believe there’s two ways to go about it: lighten the burden on developers, or require more of homebuilders.
The 11 candidates vying for three at-large council seats shared their beliefs on affordable housing and other issues facing the city at a debate Saturday at Penrose House hosted by The Gazette, KOAA News 5 and the El Pomar Foundation’s Forum for Civic Advancement and KOAA at Penrose House.
Several candidates said the City Council needs to do as much as possible to reduce the regulatory hurdles for developers and cut costs builders face in constructing homes.
“Currently, they pay tens of thousands of dollars on every single unit they build for building permits, for all kinds of fees,” Realtor Tony Gioia told about 50 people who attended.
“We can relax some of those fees, if they are going to work with us to build affordable housing. That way they can pass those savings on to their buyers.”
Former state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt agreed, saying that the council should eliminate some of the “red tape” to “get off the backs” of homebuilders.
The city is expected to have a deficit of more than 20,000 affordable housing units. Housing is generally considered to be affordable when a resident spends no more than a third of income on housing.
Athena Roe, former Councilman Val Snider, former Secretary of State Wayne Williams and incumbent Councilman Tom Strand were in agreement that the council should seek ways to reduce fees and other administrative costs associated with development.
Regina English, however, said that developers seeking approval to build in the city should be required to construct a certain number of affordable units.
“I believe that we should stop giving all these (tax) breaks to the developers,” said English, who runs a nonprofit that mentors at-risk youths.
Candidates also offered some of their ideas for dealing with the city’s homeless population.
Randy Tuck, who’s retired after decades in the construction industry, suggested creating a task force, including first responders and mental health specialists, to determine the scope of the problem and devise a plan to address underlying issues that often leave people on the streets.
Strand emphasized the importance of providing resources for certain homeless populations, such as veterans and women with children. But, at the same time, those who refuse help and choose to be homeless need to be dealt with “in a more forceful manner,” he said.
Snider made similar remarks, saying that law enforcement should be “more aggressive” when dealing with the chronically homeless.
Candidates were split on whether they supported a ballot initiative that will allow collective bargaining by local firefighters. Incumbent Councilman Bill Murray, Tuck, Dennis Spiker and Terry Martinez said they supported the measure.
“I’m not afraid of collective bargaining,” said Martinez, a former elementary school principal. He added that it offers “an official seat at the table” for firefighters to negotiate their wages and other matters.
The measure would also allow firefighters to maintain the equipment they have and purchase new gear when they need it, said Spiker, an Army veteran and student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
All other candidates were opposed.
Some, including Wayne Williams and Klingenschmitt, worried that the measure’s passage would cost taxpayers. Others, including Strand and English, said it would be unfair to allow collective bargaining for just one group of civil servants.
“It needs to be fair, straight across the board,” English said. “It should not be favoritism toward just one class of workers.”
The city clerk mailed out ballots to Colorado Springs’ active, registered voters on Friday.
Anyone who does not receive their ballot by Wednesday should contact the clerk’s office at 385-5901 or email@example.com.
For more information about the election, visit www.ColoradoSprings.gov/election.
Colorado Springs is expected to have a deficit of more than 20,000 affordable housing units this year — homes on which a resident spends no more than a third of their income.