Proposition 123 will help make Colorado housing more affordable

As former and current teachers in Colorado, we know all too well how unaffordable it has become to live here. In fact, just 1 in 5 Colorado homes is considered affordable on a teacher’s salary.

Those looking for a home over the last decade have fewer options due to a 40% decrease in the number of homes built between 2010 and 2020. The skyrocketing cost of housing continues to drive educators out of the communities they serve and, in some instances, to drive them out of the teaching profession altogether

That is why the Colorado Education Association – on behalf of its 39,000 education professionals –  is particularly invested in the success of Proposition 123. Without raising taxes, Proposition 123 will help to solve our housing crisis by funding programs that provide down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers, lower rent, and build more affordable housing for hardworking families. We urge Colorado voters to support our education professionals and our schools by supporting Proposition 123.

And while Proposition 123 should result in fewer of our colleagues moving into folks’ spare bedrooms, out of Colorado, or forced to commute longer distances, these aren’t the only reasons we support the measure.

The lack of affordable housing impacts everyone: from the bus drivers who drop our kids off in the morning to the cafeteria workers serving lunch to the students in every classroom.

More than half of all Colorado renters are considered “cost-burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs. And one-third of Coloradans say they are worried about losing their home because they can’t afford the rent or mortgage.

This issue tragically affects even the youngest Coloradans. More than 21,400 students experienced homelessness during the 2019-2020 school year, meaning almost 3 out of every 100 students are without secure housing.

Research shows stable and affordable housing is a key factor in driving long-term student success. Children who regularly switch schools due to housing instability or homelessness tend to have lower academic performance than those with consistent housing.

On the flip side, providing more affordable housing leads to more racially and economically diverse neighborhoods and schools, which result in 22 times the performance of less diverse schools.

Making Colorado more affordable would make great strides in reversing the teacher shortage, and would be particularly helpful in recruiting and retaining BIPOC, Latina and Latino teachers, according to the latest study by the National Education Association. As the number of educators of color increases, so too does the achievement of BIPOC, Latina and Latino students.

But when educators are forced to leave their positions to find more affordable housing, the cost of their absence can be felt academically, culturally and financially.

Thankfully, Proposition 123 gives Colorado a chance to invest in affordable housing for our students, our education professionals, and all of our communities.

With this permanent source of funding, we can expand homeownership opportunities for our vital workforce; help renters build wealth to become homeowners; require prioritized local review of building approvals, and help local governments increase the number of homes that Coloradans can afford by 3% every year.

We can achieve all of this while still giving our K-12 education system access to much-needed funding within the state budget. By putting $300 million of our state’s taxable income toward affordable housing, we naturally free up funding within the budget for other priorities like education and healthcare.

The real risk to Colorado’s education system comes if Prop 123 fails because, with no sustainable source to fund housing, we force housing advocates and local communities to compete against education advocates for general fund dollars with hopes of making gradual, marginal progress on the top crisis facing Coloradans today.

The reality is, the cost of doing nothing is far greater. National estimates suggest the housing crisis will drain billions from our education and healthcare systems. Here in Colorado, the cost of housing has cost our education system enough already.

We simply cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the housing crisis that surrounds us. It’s past time to invest in affordable housing for our students, our education professionals, and our communities. We urge Coloradans to vote yes on Prop 123 by November 8th.

Amie Baca-Oehlert is president of the Colorado Education Association. Carrie Rodgers teaches special education in Vail, Colorado. This op-ed was edited by the “yes” on Prop. 123 campaign before it was submitted to The Denver Post.

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