During the Buena Vista Board of Trustees meeting last week, Andrea Carlstrom, Director of Chaffee County Public Health, updated the board on the status of the one-year, $250,000 Health Disparities grant from the Colorado Office of Health Equity.

(Photo courtesy Shutterstock)

The grant is in effect from July 1 through June 20, 2020. The goal: to find solutions for bridging the gap between housing inequity and health equity and to develop creative solutions to meet some of the toughest issues facing Colorado. An additional goal is to identify ways to increase business opportunities in the county and acquire more local economic opportunity.

The grant funds will be used to:

  • Identify the top nine land-use topics of most interest to the community
  • Identify nine subject matter experts to speak on these land use topics
  • Convene 18 community education events
  • Collect feedback from participants at each event
  • Compile feedback into a report to planning commissions and elected bodies.

A survey was completed over the past few months, focused on identifying the top nine land use topics. According to Carlstrom, the survey had an overwhelming response, with respondents from all over the county including feedback from such entities as builders, developers, real estate professionals, employers and service industry employees.

Results of the survey:
Nine, top land-use topics were identified. The list was diverse and the department plans to concentrate on educational events in the fall and spring. The four topics scheduled for the fall are Lean Development, Financial Implication of Development Patterns, Incremental Development and Entrepreneurship/Small Business Start-UP or Expansion as the

The remaining five topics will be slated for the spring of 2020.  They include:

  • Smart growth principles
  • Missing middle housing
  • Conservation
  • Permanent affordability strategies
  • Land Use Code specifics

Additionally, Carlstrom told the trustees that the Chaffee County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC) is working in concert with the Office of Housing to put on an “Access to Capital Conference”, possibly toward the end of April 2020. “Its goal is to bring lenders and financial institutions to [Chaffee] County to meet with business and entrepreneurs, allowing them to pitch their ideas on creative solutions to our housing needs, and secure funding for those ideas,” according to Carlstrom.

CCEDC hosts this conference every other year. “When Wendell Prior, Executive Director, saw the first four topics and saw how these lend themselves to building builders [scaling our own capacity to address our needs], he expanded the conference,” said Carlstrom.

Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, Inc. (CHFA) will now be a co-sponsor and several multi-capital lenders from out of state have also agreed to sponsor the conference. “Our reach is starting to creep outside of Chaffee County and the State is looking at the series of events that can be replicated elsewhere in Colorado,” noted Becky Gray, director of housing. “Even our subject experts are seeing this an innovative approach – not just policy.  It’s also about economic development and how to ignite the market to address our own needs.”

Carlstrom ended by tying it all back to health. “If we have safe and secure housing, then we can take care of our health and prioritize that so that Chaffee County can thrive in health and wellness.”