Blog YIMBY Denver Statement on 2024 State Legislation

May 12, 2024

Systemic land use reform has come to Colorado! The pro-housing, pro-transit, and pro-climate wins of the 2024 Colorado State Legislative session were the culmination of many years of Yes in My Back Yard advocacy. It has been a long time coming for YIMBY Denver. Since 2016, we tirelessly advocated to allow our communities to grow upward instead of outward. We advanced the conversation on the connection between zoning, affordability, and climate from the fringe into the mainstream of political discourse.

For the first time last year, SB23-213 “Land Use” attempted to unwind Colorado’s exclusionary zoning laws that have over the past century dug our state into a deep hole of unaffordable housing and sprawling suburbanization. But when the bill died on the calendar, we did not weep, for we knew that the Overton window had shifted, and that the work done in 2023 would lay the groundwork for 2024. We were right.

YIMBY Denver supported several bills this legislative session with most passing! Together, these new laws are stronger than the sum of their parts and will be enormously consequential for the future of land use in Colorado. For example, the new housing allowed in our transit oriented communities from HB24-1313 will be made all the more impactful from the elimination of parking requirements in HB24-1304. These laws will make our state a more affordable, sustainable, and better place to live for generations to come. Following is an overview of our legislative wins and setbacks:

WIN! HB24-1313: Housing in Transit-Oriented Communities

This year’s flagship Housing and Transit-Oriented Communities law, which removes housing bans near transit, will allow more Coloradans to live where they want along compact transit corridors instead of pushing them out into land gobbling subdivisions. These transit-oriented neighborhoods will strengthen our public transit agencies, boost housing supply, and reduce the carbon footprint of our metropolitan areas.

WIN! HB24-1304: Limiting Minimum Parking Requirements

This law removes a requirement in many instances to provide expensive and space consuming parking for cars as a precondition to building homes for human beings. By doing so, it will make new developments more affordable and less automobile dependent while also making it possible to build housing in instances where the financial and space requirements of parking would otherwise make it infeasible. This is a huge win for affordability, climate, and walkable urbanism.

WIN! HB24-1152: Accessory Dwelling Units

The bill would effectively double the allowed density of most existing single family zoned areas within Colorado metropolitan areas by permitting any homeowner to build an accessory dwelling unit on their lot. ADUs allow adult children to live independently at home, allow aging parents to live in multigenerational households, allow seniors to age in place, make hefty mortgage payments easier to bear, and provide a relatively affordable housing option.

WIN! HB24-007: Prohibit Residential Occupancy Limits

This law will allow Coloradans to decide how many people they want to live with within a dwelling unit without arbitrary local government restrictions preventing them from doing so or criminalizing their current living arrangements. This is a big win for individual rights that increases the capacity of our existing housing stock and ends discrimination of household size in Colorado on the basis of blood relations.

WIN! HB24-1098: Cause Required for Residential Evictions

The YIMBY movement is about building more housing but it is also about increasing housing stability. This law provides reasonable protections for tenants from arbitrary or discriminatory decisions from landlords to discontinue a lease while still allowing the most common reasons for eviction, such as lease violations, renovation, sale, or reoccupation by landlord family members.

WIN! HB24-1107: Judicial Review of Local Land Use Decision

Lengthy and unsuccessful lawsuits delay projects and ultimately make it harder to build housing that is needed to address the housing affordability crisis and to meet our climate targets.This law causes attorney’s fees to be awarded to the prevailing defendant if an appeal contesting a land use decision fails. In doing so, HB24-1107 will reduce the number of these frivolous lawsuits.

Win: SB 24-195: Protect Vulnerable Road Users

The original bill (SB-036) that would have raised money for pedestrian safety improvements by assessing a small, graduated fee on the largest and heaviest private vehicles died. However, SB 24-195 clears the way to install Automated Vehicle Identification Systems (AVIS) on state highways, requires CDOT to set declining fatality and serious bodily injury (SBI) targets, and sets aside $7 million annually from FASTER funds that were traditionally used for highway safety projects to vulnerable road user projects. It also allows for increased usage of bus lane enforcement cameras. 

Setback: HB24-1239: Single-Stairway Multi-family Structure

Currently multi-unit buildings over three stories require two staircases in Colorado for fire safety. However most of the developed world does not have such laws and do not have a worse fire survivability record. Thiis law would have legalized single stair buildings that can fit on small-lots and allow for superior unit layouts with cross-ventilation. We are disappointed in the failure of this bill but we are optimistic that reforms of this policy will soon come to pass Denver City Council and will be reintroduced in next year’s legislative session.

We celebrate these long sought policy wins but recognize that there is more work yet to do. We will be engaged in this work for the remainder of 2024 with our partners in the Denver Mayor’s office and City Council. We will advocate for the most liberal possible implementation of these laws in Denver and encourage the enactment of similar ordinances in those cases where bills failed. Next year, we will be back at the capitol to make up the ground from SB23-213 and to go beyond to deliver the greatest possible wins for sustainable housing abundance.

YIMBY Denver has been engaged in a long term project to change the deeply entrenched rules that govern how we build our cities and only now after many years of work are we seeing the fruit of this labor. We can definitively say that our work has made a real difference. What YIMBY Denver accomplished in the past year is profound. I look forward to seeing what we accomplish in the next 12 months. Onward!