Given the diverse nature of the issues that Council faces I will look at every issue through the lens of Cost, Culture and Collaboration.
Below I have shared some of my top priorities tied to those themes as well as the beginnings of possible solutions.
- Affordable and Attainable Housing
- Affordable housing as it relates to people in the lower 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI) and how we assist some of the most vulnerable populations in our community. I am a board member for Neighbor 2 Neighbor and past development Chair for Homelessness Prevention Initiative and believe that stable housing is crucial for positive personal and professional growth and developing the sense of place and community that strengthens and sustains our culture.
- Attainable Housing, related to people above 80% of the AMI, is a growing issue as well. Given the tremendous appreciation we have seen in the region over the past 5 years, many people that we consider to be doing “OK” in our community are struggling to find opportunities to rent or purchase a home without spending over 30% of their monthly income. I believe that any solution starts with ensuring stakeholders’ voices are heard and represented.
- Fort Collins is a highly educated community, but we do not have the jobs to match our skilled workforce. A 2011 economic study showed that 78% of our population has above a high-school education (trade school, college, etc.) but only 38% of the jobs that we offer in the region require that level of education. This not only pushes people out of our community as they look for opportunities for themselves and their families, but also plays into the affordable and attainable housing issues when you look at the depressed wages and greater competition at those lower paying jobs that result from this problem.
- Long-Term Strategic Planning
- Fort Collins is transitioning from a large town to a small city and that comes with a lot of growing pains. I believe that with proper planning we can grow in a way that will help us not only maintain, but enhance our community and culture over the next 20-30 years. City Plan, the long term vision for the community, is up for review in this next term cycle. That is the guiding document for our future. Through that process we have the opportunity to shape not just our Fort Collins, but Northern Colorado in a way that aligns with the existing and emerging values and priorities of our citizens.
To address the Affordable and Attainable Housing issues I believe that we have an opportunity to put upward pressure on our state officials to pursue reform of things like construction defects to encourage development of condo housing (an entry level housing option for many people). The City should also utilize our land bank in conjunction with regional partners to promote development of affordable housing options. Higher density pedestrian communities with co-located living, working and commercial spaces to maximize our land use and enhance neighborhood character and livability should be a priority in the developable greenfield space to the northeast. Our fee structure and its timeline for review could be adjusted to incentivize these more sustainable types of housing and reduce fee increases that our out of cycle with the fluctuating economic conditions. Public infrastructure plans and solutions should precede all development to ensure that growth can pay its own way to reduce negative impacts across the community.
Regarding Underemployment: Northern Colorado is well known as a great place to live, but I do not think that we have done enough to define ourselves as a great place to do business. I believe that the city has an opportunity to attract and grow businesses who align with our culture and would like to take advantage of our high standard of living, talented workforce pipeline and research expertise. This outreach effort could be done on our own or through collaboration with organizations already operating in this space for the region like the Northern Colorado Economic Alliance (NCEA) or Colorado State University. To maximize the economic impact we should focus on 1) Attracting Primary employers – businesses who do more than 50% of their business outside of to the region to maximize the multiplier effect on money brought into the community and 2) Tapping into our highly innovative community to create and grow our local business economy. The city may be able to do more in this space by getting out of the way, but I do believe that they are in a unique position to foster greater connections between the regional animators of innovation.
Long Term Strategic Planning has less concrete potential solutions but our City Plan and the related Transportation and Cultural plans (that will be reviewed in the next term cycle) are great tools for shaping that vision. Having a council that is approachable, representative of the diversity of voices in our community, and willing to listen to all stakeholders is crucial to that process. We should pursue innovative ways to engage community stakeholders at every level in these conversations. How we choose to grow as a community and the partners we engage along the way will shape the future of not just Fort Collins, but Northern Colorado as a whole.
Thank you again for your interest. People, like you, who are engaged with the process are the best champions for local level politics. I hope that I’ve earned your vote and voice, and look forward to your support. I would be happy to chat in person at one of my upcoming beer or coffee events.