Gary Hodges for Longmont City Council, Ward 3

Metro Housing Coalition Questionnaire Responses

1. Please tell us about yourself and why you are interested in running (or running for another term) for elected office in the City of Longmont?

I am a Senior Associate Scientist with the University of Colorado-Boulder in the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, or CIRES, and work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. I’ve lived in Longmont for over 25 years and served on the Transportation Advisory Board for seven years. Married to Lisa for almost 30 years, and we have two children and two grandchildren that call Longmont home.

I’m running to bring Diversity of Opinion to council. There are a disproportionate number of unanimous votes, and discussion on important topics often leaves out entire lines of valid counter opinion. Longmont is known and admired along the Front Rage for our water, electricity, and internet services. What will be Longmont’s next Nextlight?

2. What do you identify as the top three issues facing Longmont and how do you think they should be addressed?

In no particular order…

  1. Protect Longmont’s Natural Spaces from Development, but not to be misconstrued as a ZERO growth position.  Growth where it makes sense and that is in harmony with surrounding neighborhoods.
  2. Recognize we are at a safety inflection point.  It is past time to address vagrancy in our city head on. As it stands now, everyone from those living on the street to residents and businesses alike are suffering. Let’s turn this around and make Longmont the example other Front Range cities look to for guidance on this issue.  
  3. Public transportation we can all accept.  It’s time to accept Longmont will never have commuter rail. We are a small city at the end of a very expensive (proposed) line. RTD will always conclude the resources to bring rail service here are not justified. Let’s instead focus on expanding local and regional bus transportation in lieu of rail. 
  4. I’m working on an outline to make Longmont the city along the Front Range to open a new business.  I’m still working on the details which is why this is not in the top 3, but will be once I make my ideas public.

3. There are a number of ways local policies, codes, regulations and fees add to the overall cost and supply of housing. Our builders are currently facing an unprecedented number of new costs and fees ranging from building code regulations, impact fees, tap fees, and other new taxes and fees that when combined with larger economic factors (such as rising interest rates, inflation, land prices, and time to get approved/permitted) make housing unattainable for too many people. What are your thoughts on this situation and how can the City of Longmont balance these needs?

I’m concerned that fees will rise as a consequence of the city’s pursuit of affordable housing, as a recently described scheme will reduce fees for qualified affordable development, but will they give up income or raise fees on market rate housing?  I’m not a fan of further burdening the housing market with ever stricter building regulations.

4. Housing—and affordable housing—has become a major policy discussion for Colorado. Local jurisdictions vary greatly in their approach, policies, methods (carrot vs. stick), and tools to address the lack of affordability in our housing market. Please share your thoughts, approach, and ideas on this important subject if you are elected.

Thoughtful zoning. Discussing the viability and public opinion of higher-rise residential housing. In general, I do not believe affordable housing eliminates a burden, but instead it merely shifts burden to another segment of society, and it may, in fact, increase burden to a level that is higher than before action was taken. I’m not opposed to pursuing affordable housing, but it shouldn’t come at a cost of making housing more expensive for others.

5. What are your thoughts on the State “Land Use” Bill (SB-213) from this past legislative session? Are there elements of the legislation that you would like to see come back? How do you think this conversation should evolve both at the State level and in the City of Longmont?

Front-to-back, an example of poor legislation.

6. Water resources, infrastructure, and conservation are all very important subjects in Colorado’s future, especially when looking at growth. Our home builders recognize this issue and seek to work collaboratively with jurisdictions as they consider policy on these issues. Please let us know your thoughts on water in the City of Longmont and how any of these ideas or policies impact the residential housing industry.

Longmont has healthy and substantial water rights. To the extent it is a problem, solving it with progressive rates is the easy solution. Longmont employs progressive rates already.

7. Construction defect laws in Colorado, enacted by the state legislature in 2007, continue to have an enormous effect on the risk, liability, and feasibility of building condominiums and other forms of “for-sale” product in Colorado. Thus, new condo starts in Colorado continue to hover around ~3-5%, when in a healthy housing market, they would be ~15-20%. This has left a sizable hole in our state’s housing options compared to other parts of the country. Please share your thoughts on this issue and how it should be addressed at the state (and/or local) level.

This is a topic I’m not well-versed on.

8. Metropolitan Districts play an important role in helping new communities develop public infrastructure and amenities including, but not limited to roads, water, sewer systems, parks and open spaces, community areas and amenities, landscaping, safety and traffic lights, and more. Metro districts also help to keep the cost of new housing more attainable than if a developer had to pay for all of these costs up front, as state and local governments in Colorado do not tax and fund this infrastructure the way they used to or how other areas of the country do. What are your thoughts on metro districts in Longmont? Do you generally support the use of metro districts or not? Do you have policy ideas or changes in how metro districts should work in Longmont?

I don’t see this as a big issue for Longmont since the city can readily provide the services required for any development. There may be a couple or so in Longmont, but as with question 7, I’m not particularly well-versed on metropolitan districts.

9. Historically, state and local communities have gone to great lengths to attract new commercial development and primary jobs through economic development policies, tax incentives, tax-increment financing (TIF), and other methods. These jobs drive demand for new housing; yet housing and residential construction do not share in the incentives and assistance the economic development projects receive. While our builders support economic development and the creation of new jobs, how would you as a policy maker look at this dynamic as it relates to the challenges being placed on building new housing?

Generally I am not a fan of government largesse. That said, I see a lot of empty storefronts in Longmont, and I am open to using all the tools the city has to support existing businesses and encourage new business activity. The business community is the Golden Goose of any city. It should be fostered and encouraged, especially in times of need. To the extent I would extend that to builders I’m not sure, but it wouldn’t be my preferred. New jobs, increasing pay… A vibrant and prosperous city solves a lot of ills.

10. If elected, how would you work with the home building industry?

I would hope it would be a cordial two-way relationship with the goal of providing the mix of housing options the market demands, while carefully considering the impacts on existing neighborhoods.

11. What is your campaign strategy and how much have you raised/spent to date?

My overarching theme is to position Longmont as the city along the Front Range that other communities look to emulate across a spectrum of positions. To date I have raised a bit under $2000, but I haven’t yet embarked on formal fundraising efforts.

12. Would you consider an endorsement, contribution or debt relief from the Metro Housing Coalition toward your campaign? If so, who should we make the check out to? (i.e. The Committee to Elect XXX, etc.)

I would consider, yes, but I would like to have a conversation first.