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State Lawmakers Tackle Housing Crisis

DENVER (CBS4)- There are three bills at the state Capitol focusing on the housing crisis in Colorado.

One proposal would establish dedicated state funding for affordable housing. Another includes tax free savings accounts for first time home buyers.

"We're trying to make sure more Coloradans can be incentivized to save money for closing costs or down payment tax free," said Rep. Crisanta Duran, a Democrat representing Denver.

The wait lists for affordable housing are long, two to three years to get a rental. Many of the newly homeless in Colorado are families relying on minimum wage jobs or seniors living on fixed incomes.

More than 2,000 homeless seniors come to Denver's Senior Support Services each year, many of them looking for help after becoming homeless for the first time in their lives.

"I've always worked, I've always had money," said Reid Shaylor.

After 30 years in the restaurant industry, Shaylor found himself out of work at age 55.

"I've interviewed hospitals, restaurants, I was even turned down because I was overqualified for a bus boy position which really upset me," said Shaylor.

"Colorado is one of four states that doesn't dedicate permanent funding for affordable housing so it should come as no surprise that we're in this housing crisis," said Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, a Democrat representing Adams County. "This is something that we have an ability to fix and we have not yet fixed."

Duran and Ulibarri have championed affordable housing at the state Capitol for years. But this year they plan to change that.

"By investing dollars to help people with rental assistance, we could also build more affordable housing units and we could help people with home ownership options but right now we don't invest in any of those things because we don't have the dedicated revenue," said Ulbarri.

Two years ago Ulbarri and Duran passed a bill that created a tax credit for builders of affordable housing and have introduced a bill to extend that this year. That has helped fund 3,500 units across the state. Unfortunately, that is only about two percent of the need.

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