With Gete Mekonnen of Locust Street.
Q: What was the Housing Task Force charged to do?
A: In January 2012, Mayor Michael Hancock asked a group of 20 residents with experience and expertise in the field of housing and economic development to serve on the 2012 Mayor Housing Task Force (MHTF). The MHTF was charged with two basic tasks: to inform the Mayor and his administration about the current housing market – its strengths, weaknesses, gaps and opportunities; and to provide policy and programmatic recommendations to help guide the direction and planning for the city.
Q: What were the recommendations?
A: Having met from February to June of 2012, having reviewed reports prepared by consultants and city staff members, and being informed by our experience and knowledge in the field, the MHTF presented the following recommendations to the Mayor:
- Create a dedicated revenue stream to support affordable housing.
- Establish a committee to give input into the revision of the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance, for near-term and long-term solutions on affordable homeownership programs.
- Maintain a strong focus on creation and preservation of affordable housing, as well as the provision of supportive services for special needs with focus on 30 percent AMI (area median income) population.
- Work towards a regional balanced housing program and solutions in collaboration with surrounding communities and agencies.
- Include a high percentage of new and renovated affordable rental housing in Transit Oriented Developments.
- Adapt a formal housing plan which incorporates the core values of the MHTF and is flexible enough to respond to changing market conditions.
- Create an advisory committee that assists in an annual review and goal setting of the housing plan.
Q: What were some of the most challenging issues that arose during the MHTF deliberation?
A: The most challenging aspect of serving on such a task force is to balance needs with resources. Compounding the challenge is the reduction in public sector funds (federal, state, and local); increase in the cost of construction; and the income of low to moderate income households falling behind cost of living. Having said that, it must be pointed out that the public sector must continue to play a lead role in affordable housing. The richness of the city is in its socio-economic diversity. The city, working with the private sector, nonprofits and philanthropy, needs to lead, induce and, yes, require at times the maintenance and building of a vibrant diverse community for everyone. I hope the recommendations of the MHTF will bear some fruit and see the day of implementation.
Getabecha “Gete” Mekonnen is the Executive Director of the Northeast Denver Housing Center, which he helped to organize over 20 years ago. During his tenure there, the organization has worked with the public and private sector to create over 1,200 affordable housing units, in addition to providing direct services in comprehensive housing counseling and home improvements. Mr. Mekonnen is also an At-Large Representative on the GPHC Board.