February 16, 2017

How State & Local Policy Work Creates Change in Denver

Tiana-Patterson.jpgQ&A with Tiana Patterson, State & Local Policy Program Officer

At Enterprise, we work in state houses and in city halls across the country to increase local resources for affordable housing, use existing resources more effectively and ensure that rental housing stock is sustainable for the long-term. We're thankful for a Wells Fargo Housing Foundation grant that helps make this work possible.

We asked Tiana Patterson, state and local policy program officer in our Denver market, to share more about her role and the team's recent "wins."

Tell us about your role in Denver.
Acting as a "convener," I try to bring together groups from housing, health, hunger, and other government organizations to share what we are working on and figure out entry points where we can support each other’s work. One of the most thrilling aspects of my work is empowering other folks to advocate for themselves. I have had the privilege of helping groups come up with ways to engage their legislators on issues that matter to them. I think too many people underestimate the power of their voice both individually and collectively to push their legislators to act on important issues.

Policy is a major part of my role, of course – interpreting legislation, tracking bills, research, and providing testimony at both the state and local level. And my policy work supports equitable transit-oriented development, green communities and affordable housing preservation – all major focus areas for Enterprise.

What policy efforts are you specifically focusing on in Denver?
In Denver, we have quite a few areas of interest:

  • Helping the city implement its $150 million dollar fund
  • Increasing tenant access and protections in Denver
  • Working to figure out how to preserve and protect neighborhoods by studying the effects of displacement and gentrification and how it impacts neighborhoods throughout Denver
  • Ensuring that transit remains accessible to all either through transit-oriented development or policy initiatives

What was your role in the $150 million linkage fee and property tax increase recently put in place, and how does it support the people of Denver?
Enterprise was very heavily involved in this work. We are so grateful to our partners who showed up and testified at every meeting/hearing, contacted our City Council and helped push this policy forward.

This decision means that thousands of more families across Denver will have access to affordable housing, which, in turn means better outcomes for their families and increased economic opportunity for residents. When families do not have to make choices between having a place to live or whether to purchase groceries, seek out medical care, or buy necessities for their family, it's a win for the entire city and county of Denver.

What role does educating constituents play in your work?
It plays a big role in my work. For example, I’d say globally, there is a misconception about what affordable housing means. Many people only think of it as government subsidized housing or Section 8. Actually, it means people across all income levels should not pay more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. When I can move beyond narrow definitions and show the depth and breadth of how affordable housing matters to all people and that it effects all of us, I count that personally as a big win. Because from there, we can talk about how to get things moving.

You've mentioned a few team “wins” already. Are there any other "big wins" you and the team have accomplished recently?
We worked diligently on strengthening the affordable housing preservation ordinance in Denver. In fact, the city is actively utilizing its increased authority to ensure long-term affordability thanks to the updates.

I'd also mention the many coalitions we have helped to build on increasing tenant rights within the city of Denver. Although no major policies have been put forth yet, we are so proud to see so many people who are passionate about this issue and want to work to increase the rights of tenants in Denver.

Also, we want to thank Wells Fargo Housing Foundation for being a sponsor of our Forum for First event on February 24 in Denver. Matthew Desmond, author of “Evicted,” is our keynote speaker, and it would not have been possible without the support of Wells Fargo.

Learn more about our state and local policy efforts across the country and our work in Denver, and find out how to support our work.

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