No Room for Citizen Input–A Tale of Two Authorities



There’s been a lot of discussion about the Urban Renewal Authority, aka LIFT, in Littleton over the past few years. But there is another Authority in Littleton that has pretty much stayed under the radar until now.

South Metro Housing Options (SMHO), formerly known as the Littleton Housing Authority, was created in 1970. Not knowing that much about SMHO other than that they provide and help with low income housing (LIH) in Littleton, we decided to refer to the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) to see what the housing authority is all about.

It didn’t take very long to realize that some of the language in the C.R.S. for urban renewal is similar to the language in the housing authority statutes. For instance:

• They are both a body corporate and politic granted public powers in the C.R.S..

• They both can be created with a petition, filed by twenty-five residents of the city, requesting the city council to approve the formation of the authority. Council can deny the petition.

• A resolution approved by council establishes each authority.

• The mayor appoints the members. In other words, they are unelected.

There is one difference between the Authorities that is worth noting. SMHO does not need to have their “plans” approved by the council. They make their decisions and in spite of the good that they do for citizens that need the help, their decisions can impact the quality of life for residents already in the community. LIFT has to have their “plans” approved by the council. This allows for public hearings throughout the process. And, because of Initiative 300, citizens get to ratify any urban renewal plans that come about after the passage of 300. (300 does not have any impact on the current urban renewal plans – it was passed after they were approved.)

What put SMHO on our radar screen after all these years? It is that Summit Development is taking steps to build a 63-unit low income housing apartment building on the west side of Nevada St just north of Main Street. This building could be 100% occupied by Section 8 low income residents. And, because the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority has awarded the builders an annual $1,240,000 tax credit for 10 years, the building will be required to be used for low income housing for 40 years. But wait, there was another agreement between the parties. Summit Development has guaranteed that the property will remain low income housing for 55 years.

The point is that the housing authority is acting autonomously from the city council–as they are allowed to do. Decisions they make, as an unelected body, can have a real impact on the quality of life for those who are current residents of the city. Residents are helpless – they have no voice in the matter. All of this can and was decided without any council input or approval.

Our elected representatives have no power over the authority they created!


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