Business groups endorse affordable housing ballot question

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Grand Junction City Councilman Cody Kennedy, far left, speaks at a news conference outside Grand Junction City Hall. Kennedy was among the officials calling on voters to approve a ballot measure they said would help in efforts to provide more affordable housing. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Officials with local business groups called on Grand Junction voters to approve a measure they said would help in efforts to provide more affordable housing.

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, Grand Junction Economic Partnership and Downtown Grand Junction are among the organizations that have endorsed City of Grand Junction Question 2B on the mail-in election ballot. Grand Valley Catholic Outreach and the Western Colorado Alliance also endorsed the measure.

“This is just a common sense approach,” said Brandon Stam, executive director of Downtown Grand Junction.

Stam was among the officials who praised the measure during a news conference outside Grand Junction City Hall.

If approved, the measure would amend the Grand Junction city charter to allow the city to lease city property for up to 99 years for affordable and workforce housing. The charter currently limits leases to 25 years, less than the minimum 30-year leases many financial institutions and programs require to fund affordable housing projects.

Mail-in ballots in the 2023 coordinated election must be returned by Nov. 7.

The median price of homes sold in the first three quarters of 2023 in Mesa County was $390,000. By one estimate, that price puts home ownership out of reach for two-thirds of local households. It’s also estimated at least 2,000 units are needed to meet affordable housing needs in Grand Junction.

Candace Carnahan, president and chief executive officer of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, said approval of 2B would enable the city to pursue more creative solutions to a complex problem.

The availability of more affordable housing would strengthen the workforce, which in turn would strengthen the economy and community, Carnahan said.

Curtis Englehart, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, said a shortage of affordable housing raises a barrier to economic development. Companies look for places in which their employees can live.

Passage of 2B would support collaborative efforts to address the issue, Englehart said.

Diane Schwenke, the retired president and CEO of the Grand Junction chamber, and Bernie Buescher, a former state legislator and official, serve as co-chairmen of a campaign to pass Question 2B. Schwenke and Buescher both called the measure a common sense effort to provide affordable housing.

“This really is a common sense initiative,” Buescher said. “This is one small step in how Mesa County and the City of Grand Junction can deal with this issue.”