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City of Cortez agrees to affordable-housing study

An artist’s rendition of what Calkins Commons, an affordable-housing project in Cortez, will look like once completed. (Illustration)
Economic development director cites difficulty in hiring

The city of Cortez has agreed to hire a consultant for $46,000 to conduct a needs assessment for affordable workforce housing.

The state grant for $25,000 is available, and the city would match it with $21,000.

Employers for businesses, schools, the health care industry, hospitality sector and others have “expressed major difficulty in attracting and hiring workers because they cannot find housing that they can afford,” Economic Development Director Rachel Marchbanks said at the City Countil meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

Once the housing assessment is completed, it opens up additional grant funding opportunities for projects, such as utility infrastructure improvements, which would facilitate development of more affordable housing, she said.

“Having a housing needs assessment is vital for the community,” said Cortez Councilmember Lydia DeHaven. “We all know issues are out there, but without data we can’t really do anything. (With an assessment) we can rely on advice from experts who work in the field. It is not abnormal for cities to help with housing, and it is happening throughout Colorado because of a lack of housing.”

Cortez Mayor Rachel Medina said the city needs to help facilitate housing development, and the assessment is a first step.

“Developers are not building the inventory we need, we are seeing what we can do to move the needle on housing,” she said.

During public comment, two residents commented they preferred the city to spend money on attracting businesses to Cortez that pay a livable wage rather than focusing on a study of affordable housing.

“If you bring in business and pay a living wage, then they can afford better housing,” said one resident.

The council voted 6-0 to award a Housing Needs Assessment contract to Williford, LLC in the amount of $46,000.