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Advocating for affordable housing

Updated: Nov 2, 2022

Aurora Housing Project Testimony I

presented on October 25, 2021 to Aurora City Council.

My name is Fr. Michael Nicosia, a member of the Board of Directors of the Colorado Council of Churches, and a resident of Aurora.

Thank you,

Mayor Coffman and esteemed Council Members for the opportunity to speak in support of Mountain View United Church R-2 Zoning. The 14 member denominations of the Colorado Council of Churches support such initiatives and applaud congregations like Mountain View for seeking to provide affordable housing to some of Aurora’s citizens.

One of the painful realities in our society is that wages have not increased enough to keep up with the cost of living. Back in 2012 I began working full-time for a local hospice, making less than $35,000 annually; over the course of my 3-year chaplaincy I didn’t receive a single cost of living increase.

To this day, wages have remained stagnant while housing prices have continued to increase. Sadly, this is a reality faced by many essential workers. At present one in three households in Aurora are cost-burdened. I’m now nearing retirement age—working for the church, though, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to do so! Regardless, if my husband were to become unable to work or should die before me, I might not be able to keep up with the mortgage payments.

With housing prices being so inflated in recent years, if I needed to sell, my finding affordable housing on a limited income would be a struggle, if not an impossibility.

It has been mentioned that under 80 properties are for sale in Aurora for under $300,000, but keep in mind—the demand is so great that paying $100,000 over the asking price is not unheard of.

The city’s comprehensive housing plans specifically call out the need to create more housing that might be affordable for our city’s workforce earning under $80,000 a year.

While I admit that even that threshold would be out of reach for many, the Mountain View project and others like it would be an invaluable good start.

True, the number of homes proposed may warrant some adjustments on the part of the surrounding neighborhood, but my hope is that we can embrace sacrifices made for the common good.

I and my colleagues of the Colorado Council of Churches support this project. We respectfully request your affirmative vote on the proposed Site Plan and re-zoning application. Thank you for considering this matter as it impacts the well-being of our citizens and ultimately of our entire City.

Aurora Housing Project Testimony II

presented on November 4, 2021 to Aurora City Council.

Good evening, Mayor Coffman and esteemed Council Members. My name is Fr. Michael Nicosia, a member of the Board of Directors of the Colorado Council of Churches. Our organization’s public policy statement on Affordable Housing and Housing Justice, supported by our 12 denominations and over 800 churches across Colorado, states:

“In a just world, all people would have decent affordable and safe housing. The members of the Church Council recognize the serious shortage of affordable housing throughout the state … not only for very low-income and homeless people, but for people who work in [the public and private service sectors.]”

I testified at your first hearing in support of the Mountain View United Church housing project. Tonight I wish to address the need for the R-2 Zoning which will move this project forward and provide affordable housing to more of Aurora’s citizens.

As a homeowner near the intersection of Iliff and Buckley, I know full well the burdens created by population growth and increased housing development. Surrounded by fencing, our modest suburban lot has a sense of country living, complete with garden and a few backyard chickens. We are truly fortunate…but for the sounds of traffic that invade our peace. Over the years our neighborhood has become increasingly congested with commuters from new developments to the East and South. Our frustrations are compounded by an increase in noisy mufflers and nightly drag racing that another citizen commented on tonight.

We love our home, but the thought of getting away from it all comes up from time to time. —So I really can resonate with other homeowners who may insist, “not in my neighborhood.” I repeat others: “if not here, where?” If we’re really going to live up to our commitments to affordable housing, many more neighborhoods should be rezoned.

I still hold on to the hope that we can embrace sacrifices made for the common good.

It is not, however, a burden these neighbors should bear without your assistance. So I call your attention to the need for city regulations that can mitigate the impact of higher-density populations—like reduced speed limits, enforcement of state statutes and city ordinances regulating unnecessary noise, the expansion of public transportation accessibility, the preservation of parks and open spaces, and other measures that can make Aurora more livable.

I and my colleagues of the Colorado Council of Churches respectfully request your affirmative vote on the re-zoning application of the Mountain View United Church, while challenging you to ensure the welfare of all our citizens. Thank you.

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