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Denver housing leaders applaud bills that aim to address affordable housing, mental health

Bills use money from American Rescue Plan Act.

By: Ivan Rodriguez May 11, 2022 at 5:00 PM

DENVER — One of the biggest issues facing communities across the country, including here in Colorado, is affordable housing.

“The problem and the challenges associated with housing are not simply resolved,” said Donna Garnett, CEO of the Montbello Organizing Committee.

Garnett says the committee was involved in House Bill 22-1304, which will allocate $178 million toward grants to help local governments and nonprofits buy land and develop affordable housing. The money will come from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“We had lots of conversations with the senator, we testified in the hearings because this was a really important opportunity for folks in our community,” said Garnett.

Even now as the Montbello Organizing Committee looks to close on another piece of land in order to build affordable housing, Garnett says the process isn’t fast — something she hopes this bill also addresses.

“With this bill, what we’re hoping for is that it will actually make funding available to purchase those properties much easier and hopefully in a more timely fashion,” said Garnett.

However, leaders with the Denver Housing Authority say the problems don’t end with affordable housing.

“We also know that it doesn’t just end at housing, that there are all these social determinants of health that really create a healthy person and a healthy community,” said Annie Hancock, director of resident community services and community connections for the Denver Housing Authority.

It’s why the Denver Housing Authority has been keeping an eye on House Bill 22-1281, which will provide $90 million in grants to create community-based behavioral health programs aimed at children and families. This bill’s funding will also come from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“One of the gaps that we’re always recognizing in our current service models is access to mental health services and behavioral health services,” Hancock said. “When we see opportunities that are coming, whether it’s from the federal, state or local level, we’re always looking at those and how can we partner with organizations.”

These local organizations know the money coming in from the American Rescue Plan Act will go a long way, even though some issues may take years resolve.

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