Sara Wilson

(Colorado Newsline) Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order Monday that aims to provide officials with a better sense of how different state agencies support housing and strategic growth goals.

The order directs certain state agencies to inventory and catalogue their own programs that provide support to local governments’ housing, transportation and growth efforts, and then prioritize the programs that support statewide goals.

The order outlines certain statewide strategic growth goals — the state wants to discourage sprawl, promote climate-conscious development and encourage development of housing along with nearby transit options.

“We want to make sure that as part of our overall housing strategy that the state is supportive of, that we align and bring to the table these basic values. We want to achieve more sustainable and affordable development in Colorado,” Polis said during a Monday announcement of the executive order at the state Capitol in Denver. He was accompanied by several state department heads and elected leaders, including Democratic Rep. Iman Jodeh or Aurora and Rep. Steven Woodrow of Denver.

“The choice between us isn’t between growth and no growth,” he said. “It’s between smart growth or unplanned growth.”

Colorado is facing a housing crisis exacerbated by a stock shortage and lack of affordability. Between now and 2040, the state is expected to add an average of 35,000 households per year, according to the executive order’s declarations. The state is currently short tens of thousands of housing units.

The agencies under the order are the Colorado Energy Office, Office of Economic Development and International Trade, Department of Transportation, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Local Affairs, Department of Public Health and Environment, and Department of Personnel and Administration.

They will need to submit a report of their findings to the governor’s office by Dec. 15, 2023.

Moral authority

Additionally, the governor wants to reduce by next July the time that DOLA takes to approve funding for affordable housing projects from 240 days to 90 days.

“It’s important for the state to lead by example. We want to be part of the conversation about how we remove barriers to housing at the local level. We should show that the state is doing everything we can to get money out quickly,” Polis said, adding that he wants the state to have the “moral authority” to ask local governments to cut red tape and streamline processes for development.

This year, a major housing policy championed by Polis failed at the Legislature on the last day of session. That bill, in its original iteration, would have overhauled zoning regulations to allow for denser housing. It was scaled back after fierce opposition from local governments and then partially restored by the House.

The executive order doesn’t include the bill’s policy solutions or funding for affordable housing — that would take legislative action — but it is what the state can do “with existing power,” Polis said.

“We are hopeful that with today’s executive order, positive steps in the direction of aligning state resources will result in shorter time frames and greater funding for projects that provide affordable housing for our state’s residents,” Brian Rossbert, executive director of Housing Colorado, said in a statement. “We are confident that the Governor and the Legislature will continue to keep the issue of housing top of mind as we move toward 2024.”