Better Housing = Better Communities and Cities

Better Housing = Better Communities and Cities

Our partnership with The Colorado Health Foundation and leaders like Tracey Stewart embody how we as Vantage Evaluation and Prosono bring action to our goals and alignment with the UN SDGs. Housing is a key pillar to how we create sustainable cities and ensure all Coloradans have access to equitable and affordable high-quality housing. Tracey’s leadership and willingness to work hand and hand with the Vantage team to innovate and co-create sustainable solutions for those experiencing housing inequity is a key lever towards modeling what is possible on a global scale. We agree with the United Nations that access to housing is an economic, social and cultural right. We work tirelessly to ensure that in our work we keep top of mind the disenfranchisement of so many of our indigenous first nation and historically marginalized populations in our efforts to design solution-focused evaluation plans that ensure more than a roof over someone’s head, but a high-quality home that is affordable and accessible to everyone. We are grateful for our long-standing and ongoing partnership with TCHF and look forward to our continued collaboration.


Better Housing = Better Communities and Cities

By Tracey Stewart, Senior Program Office, The Colorado Health Foundation

Housing is often at the heart of who we are, how we live, and what we want in order to build our future. The Colorado Health Foundation is the lead philanthropic organization in housing affordability in Colorado, covering the entire state with innovative planning and essential funding. Because we understand the inequities based on zip code destiny, we look at all of our funding through a racial equity lens. This leads to an overall objective of achieving health equity. We want individuals and families to live in communities and neighborhoods that give them a more than equal shot at extending and having a healthy lifespan – for themselves and their communities.

Reflection is required to best evaluate how the past has impacted the present. How did social inequities play a role, and how did communities evolve without basic essentials: food, childcare, employment opportunities? There is a pattern that emerges, seeing how land is used and bought. And therein lies our goal to review the value of land and the value of labor in order to set a better and more promising course of home ownership.  

Affordable housing doesn't happen without intention. It is not its own enterprise. It needs partnership. Working with developers is a critical component, as developers need to demonstrate the good they provide, as well as being deserving of the tax credits and discounts that emanate from their good work. While the past has often been fixated on the speed of the build, in order to more quickly recoup the investment, the present is more thoughtfully focused on the partnership of developers, builders, and corporate foundations. There is movement coming from foundations like JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo Foundation, and healthcare foundations like the George Kaiser Family Foundation, and Annie Casey Foundation in Baltimore to foster alternative types of ownership. 

Collective ownership offers opportunity to first time homeowners, who until now, may have only owned the mobile home which sat upon the land. In greater rural communities, new policies have given residents a right to buy into the land, thereby creating competitive offers and the chance to build wealth and equity. Resident-owned communities and community land trusts are about human beings being able to own individual properties together. It is one way to keep affordability in play, and it is one of the innovations in which the Colorado Health Foundation seeks to promote.  

Social impact is also a movement that can bring about real change in the attitude, approach, and success of our health and housing standards. When businesses employ a model of social impact in their mission, this may result in small, medium, and large successes. Playgrounds, child care facilities, and open spaces are now essential to creating better places to live. This, in turn, increases tenant retention, lowers overall maintenance costs related to forced tenant turnover, and increases tenant responsibility for care of their common areas and larger environment.

Land trust work is an important area of expansion for our foundation. Developing and purchasing affordable homes and affordable properties, and bringing them into the land trust, allows people to move into ‘for sale’ properties at a lower cost and become homeowners who build equity. When they move, in order for the affordability to have permanence, there is a cap on the amount of equity that one is able to take in cash. In essence, you use your equity to get into the home, and when you leave, you sell at a specific rate or specific price, and this keeps the home affordable. Land trusts have become very popular throughout the country. In Colorado, Elevation is the first statewide land trust. 

It is combining efforts and interests to make a difference in housing and health. It is having vision to recognize that one impacts the other. It is business and foundations, developers and builders, all of whom play a role in creating, establishing, and maintaining housing that will not just meet the needs of low to middle income families, but will allow a whole new generation of homeowners to flourish as they seek their own prosperity. In health, wealth, and happiness.

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