Opinion | Dylan Roberts: The benefit of public-private partnerships | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Dylan Roberts: The benefit of public-private partnerships

Dylan Roberts
Guest Column

Our mountain and rural communities thrive when we work together. Lacking the resources of the big city, we must all collaborate to solve our most pressing challenges. We’ve been doing this for a long time, and I am confident that this type of problem solving can help us address one of our biggest current challenges — the high cost of living. In order to ensure that our communities are places where all can live, work and thrive, we must pull together the best of our business community, local and state governments, and nonprofit organizations. As your state senator, I am seeking opportunities to expand support for public-private partnerships.

By incentivizing state and local governments to collaborate with private industries, public-private partnerships can build a pathway for and expedite publicly beneficial projects that neither sector could accomplish on its own. We’re seeing public private partnerships work statewide and here in Summit County and there’s more to come.

We all know that our region and state faces significant housing challenges. Far too many teachers, police officers, nurses, tourism workers and many more in Summit County are unable to find affordable housing in or near their place of work. As a result, many workers have had to either make significant financial sacrifices to remain in their community or make the difficult choice to move elsewhere. Insufficient workforce housing has, in turn, exacerbated workforce shortages across the region, affecting our local businesses and economic growth. We’ve seen worker shortages in almost every essential industry from health care to education, and even in our post offices. That is why I have prioritized legislation that promotes public private partnerships to increase access to affordable housing.

I started this work last session with the introduction and passage of HB22-1304, which created a grant fund to strategically allocate $178 million from the federal coronavirus recovery funds towards affordable housing development across the state — the largest investment in housing in a single-year in the state’s history. Rather than have the state initiate or even plan housing development, this program lends a helping hand to local governments, nonprofits and private developers with existing proposals to create or maintain transformational affordable housing. By providing critical gap funding to these initiatives, this bill has and will enable the creation of workforce housing that will dramatically benefit our workers, local economies, and community at large. In this way, I believe HB22-1304 is a great example of the public and private sector working together for public benefit.

Recognizing the success of HB22-1304, I just introduced another bipartisan-supported bill that gives the state unprecedented authority to aid housing development projects. My SB23-001 allows the state to sell its own land assets for local workforce housing and child care center developments. In order to facilitate these transactions, SB23-001 authorizes the Public-Private Partnership office within the Department of Personnel to act as a “broker” to purchase, transfer, exchange, sell or lease state-owned land assets. By removing the burden of finding affordable and available buildable land — often the biggest hurdle for developers — this initiative has the potential to spur a number of workforce housing projects across the state.

Even though these bills and respective programs are just taking off, I’ve seen enough enthusiasm and early investment among communities and local governments across northwest Colorado to feel confident that public-private initiatives will benefit our region of the state. In Eagle County, SB23-001 would facilitate the development of workforce housing on land currently occupied by the Colorado Department of Transportation in Dowd Junction. SB23-001 would also pave the way for Routt County, in partnership with the city of Steamboat Springs and CDOT, to develop a child care facility and workforce housing for snowplow drivers on another state-owned property. By facilitating the development of affordable housing as well as a child care center, Routt County’s partnership demonstrates that SB23-001 has the potential to also strengthen and expand infrastructure for essential industries. This gives me hope that public-private partnerships could address a number of the challenges and opportunities our employers and workers are facing across our region.

Good news: SB23-001 has already passed its first committee hearing with bipartisan support and we’ll keep working until it reaches the Governor’s desk.

If you have any ideas or questions around public private partnerships, SB23-001, affordable housing development, or anything else, I would love to hear from you. I invite you to attend upcoming in-person and virtual town hall meetings, as well as to contact me directly at senatordylanroberts@gmail.com or on my cell: 970-846-3054.

Dylan Roberts is the State Senator for Clear Creek, Eagle, Garfield, Gilpin, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit Counties.

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