Housing Authorities

Partnering with Housing Authorities

A public housing authority is a public entity that has a specific set of special powers and authorities. A major benefit of housing authorities is the ability to use additional financial resources to devote to critical community projects in light of restrictions imposed on local governments by the TABOR Amendment. After enactment of TABOR in 1992, local government growth was restrained by requiring voter approval for any increases in revenues, spending, and additional debt. Housing authorities can be considered enterprises, rather than local districts, as long as their annual grant revenue from state and local governments is less than ten percent of their total budget. As government-owned businesses authorized to issue their own revenue bonds, housing authorities and urban renewal authorities can make expenditures that won’t be counted against the local or county government limits imposed by TABOR. Local interpretation varies, however, as it relates to TABOR restrictions.

Housing Authorities have the power to:

  • Determine whether housing conditions are unsafe, unsanitary, or substandard and investigate methods for improving such conditions.

  • Study and make recommendations on plans addressing the clearing, re-planning, or reconstruction where unsafe, unsanitary, or substandard conditions exist. Provide housing accommodations for low-income persons in cooperation with the local jurisdiction.

  • Prepare, implement, and operate projects including the construction, reconstruction, improvement, alteration, or repair of any project.

  • Assume by purchase, lease, or other means any project undertaken by any government or by the city or county.

  • Act as an agent for the federal government in connection with the acquisition, construction, operation, or management of a project.

  • Arrange with the city or with a government for the furnishing, planning, re-planning, opening, or closing of streets, roads, roadways, alleys, property options, property rights, or for the furnishing of property services in connection with a project.

  • Lease or rent dwellings, accommodations, lands, buildings, structures, or facilities included in any project, and establish and revise associated rents or charges.

  • Access buildings or property to conduct investigations or to make surveys.

  • Sell, exchange, transfer, assign, or pledge property to any person, firm, corporation, the city or county, or government.

  • Receive exemption from the payment of property taxes or special assessments to the state or any subdivision of the state.

This means housing authorities have some specific abilities that local governments typically lack:

  • Ability to apply for loans, grants, and contributions from government or other sources designed for specific authority purposes.

  • Ability to acquire property by purchase, lease, operations, eminent domain, gift, grant, bequest or devise from any person, firm, corporation or city government.

  • Ability to borrow money on terms.

For jurisdictions where housing authorities already exist, it is essential for local elected officials to partner with the housing authority and determine how best to utilize these unique abilities to address unmet housing needs in the community. Partnership can include providing and combining funding sources, identifying and directing residents to other useful social services provided by public sector agencies and advocating for affordable housing at all different income levels.

Role for Local Government: Where possible, contributing funds from local housing trust funds and other federal housing assistance programs, or other local resources to support federal housing assistance program funds that are received by the PHA can improve the quality of assistance provided to residents while serving more households. Due to the fact that local elected officials play a large role in framing affordable housing in their community and should act as the champion for more affordable housing development, it can be especially beneficial to create working relationships with the HA in your jurisdiction to align the manner in which affordable housing and housing that receives public subsidy are presented to residents.

Creating a Housing Authority

Overview and Description

A Housing Authority (HA) can be created at the municipal or county level. The process is initiated when a petition sponsored by at least twenty-five residents of a community is filed with the local clerk indicating the need for such an authority. After concluding at a community hearing that an HA is needed, a resolution is adopted and forwarded to the mayor’s or county clerk’s office. Upon filing a signed certificate by the newly appointed HA board with DOLA, the municipal or county governing board can act as the board of directors of the authority, or appoint a board of housing commissioners. These officials and their successors are constituted as a housing authority, which is a body corporate and politic. Once established, an HA may employ a secretary who will act as executive director.

Creating a Multi-jurisdictional Housing Authority

Any combination of Colorado cities, towns, or counties may, by contract with each other, establish a separate governmental entity to be known as a multi-jurisdictional housing authority. A regional approach to housing authorities can enable jurisdictions to combine resources and take cooperative action on regional housing needs.

A multijurisdictional housing authority has the following powers:

  • Plan, finance, acquire, construct/reconstruct/repair, maintain, manage, and operate housing projects and programs pursuant to a multi-jurisdictional agreement.

  • Plan, finance, acquire, construct/reconstruct/repair, maintain, manage, and operate housing projects and programs for employees of employers located within the jurisdiction of the authority.

  • Make/enter into contracts with any person, including contracts with state or federal agencies, private enterprises, and non-profit organizations also involved in providing housing, irrespective of whether such agencies are parties to the contract establishing the authority.

  • Employ agents and employees.

  • Cooperate with state and federal governments in all respects concerning the financing of such housing projects and programs.

  • Acquire, hold, lease (as lessor or lessee), sell, or otherwise dispose of any real or personal property, commodity, or service.

  • Condemn property for public use, if such property is not owned by any

  • governmental entity or any public utility, pursuant to state authority.

  • Receive exemption of property taxes to the state or subdivision of the state for properties owned by the housing authority for renters at 50 percent or below median income.

  • Per Statute 29-1-204.5(7.5) a multi-jurisdictional housing authority may levy, in all of the area within the boundaries of the authority, a sales or use tax, or both, at a rate not to exceed one percent, consistent with sales or use tax levied by the state. The tax imposed is in addition to any other sales or use tax imposed pursuant to law and exempt from the limitation imposed by section 29-2-108. The sales tax will be collected by the Department of Revenue, and must be approved by the eligible voters.

  • Levy an ad valorem property tax (not to exceed five mills), a sales and/or use tax (the rate not to exceed one percent).

  • Establish development impact fees so long as: no portion of the authority is located in a county with a population of more than one hundred thousand and so long as the fee is not levied upon development, construction, permitting, or otherwise in connection with low or moderate income housing or affordable employee housing, and the rate is two dollars per square foot or less.