YIMBY Denver is proud to see Governor Jared Polis and state legislative leaders taking bold strides to solve Colorado’s most pressing problem: the lack of housing affordable for all. We see Colorado’s leaders recognizing that the current housing crisis has been devastating for many of its residents, and threatens to weaken Colorado’s economy and harm its environment if decisive actions are not taken. The below bills, endorsed by YIMBY Denver, are essential steps on the path out of Colorado’s housing crisis.
These positions were informed by YIMBY Denver’s assessment of each policy proposal, conversations with stakeholders, and our values. Each will be updated as the session progresses, should any amendments adjust our position on the bills.
SUPPORT: SB23-213: Land Use
Problem to solve: Home prices and rents in Colorado have increased dramatically in recent decades, making many parts of the state among the most expensive places to live in the United States. A primary cause of this crisis is the slow production of new homes - cities have not built enough homes to keep up with Colorado’s strong population and job growth. The barriers to housing production are numerous. Most local governments have eschewed regional solutions and hold onto generations-old regulations banning most housing forms on most of their lands. Further, many communities follow development approval processes designed to make new residential development easy to block.
What does the bill do?
- The bill sets minimum standards for municipalities as they craft comprehensive plans and zoning codes.
- It requires ADUs to be allowed by-right throughout the state.
- It allows multifamily buildings as large as sixplexes to be built in virtually any residentially zoned area in cities like Denver and Boulder.
- It allows cities to design zoning and density plans around transit stations and key corridors that are appropriate for the city's context, while ensuring those plans meet minimum standards for average (permitted) density near these nodes and corridors.
- It eliminates many (though not all) costly parking mandates in many regions of our cities.
- It implements numerous other measures designed to incentivize efficient use of our limited natural resources, including water and lands that are lower risk for flooding and fire.
Why we care:
- Changing or eliminating zoning and regulations that prevent the development of housing and a range of forms, sizes, and price points is at the heart of YIMBY Denver’s mission. This bill takes a strong first step towards ensuring our cities all take part in the effort of adequately housing their residents and workers.
- Accelerated production of dense housing forms enabled by this bill will help slow the growth of rents and home prices, making housing more affordable to all. This will let more Coloradans stay in Colorado, make Colorado residents more prosperous, and keep Colorado’s economy strong and thriving, while expanding the rights of property owners.
- When housing is abundant and rents are more affordable in a city, fewer people fall out of the housing market and become homeless each year. Getting access (or never losing access) to permanent housing is fundamental to reducing homelessness in Denver and Colorado. This bill is crucial if we are to implement Housing First policies to address homelessness.
- Dense development in the state’s population centers is a necessity if Colorado is to achieve its environmental goals. Preventing sprawl in favor of dense infill development reduces the emissions required for individual travel by making non-automotive forms of mobility a practical and inexpensive alternative. It helps keep our wilderness wild by helping human habitation grow up instead of out. If passed, this bill will make major strides to reducing sprawl and carbon emissions in Colorado, while ensuring our already-spent capital dollars on transportation stretch further.
SUPPORT: HB23-1099: Portable Screening Report For Residential Leases
Problem to solve: Tenants applying for multiple apartment units are often charged a fee for each one representing the cost of running a screening report from a credit agency, although it’s the same (or nearly the same) report being run by every apartment. These fees are typically nonrefundable if the tenant is not approved.
What does the bill do?
- A landlord must accept a portable tenant screening report from a prospective tenant, so long as it’s been produced in the last 30 days. In other words, the tenant pays once and can share that report for multiple applications instead of paying for the same report multiple times.
- It also requires that a landlord who charges a fee for the initial report provides that report to the tenant, so it may be used elsewhere.
- It provides an exclusion for landlords who run their own reports and will refund any application fee for tenants who do not enter into a lease with the landlord.
Why we care: We support efforts to reduce wasteful, unnecessary expenditures in the housing market. Colorado renters are the most cost-burdened segment of our housed population, and in the case of these screening fees, payments are made for redundant work. This bill is another policy intervention to help renters secure homes.
SUPPORT: HB23-1171: Just Cause Requirement Eviction Of Residential Tenant
What this is about: The bill establishes a set of allowable reasons for tenant lease non-renewal and eviction and expands the framework by which a tenant can challenge an eviction in court. The allowed causes include the most common reasons tenants are evicted (such as not paying rent or violating the lease) as well as typical reasons landlords may not want to renew, such as a renovation or sale. However, it protects tenants from arbitrary or discriminatory decisions by landlords to discontinue a lease.
Why we care:
- Unstable housing, and evictions in particular, can generate negative health outcomes, worse educational outcomes for children, higher poverty rates, exacerbation of historic racial inequities, and increased homelessness.
- While we recognize that the most effective anti-displacement tool is housing production, a review of the evidence suggests that just cause eviction policies are an inexpensive, attainable, and effective anti-displacement solution.
- Case studies from around the world demonstrate that these tenant protections do not disincentivize the development and maintenance of new housing. Cities like Jersey City, NJ have maintained high levels of housing production with just cause policies in place, while simultaneously holding one of the lowest eviction rates in the country. In fact, Jersey City produced more housing permits with Just Cause in place from 2010-2018 than did Pueblo, Jefferson, Mesa, Boulder, and Arapahoe counties in the same period.
AMEND: HB23-1190: Affordable Housing Right of First Refusal
What this is about: This bill will establish a process for local governments to make a competitive offer to purchase multi-family properties, such as apartments, when they become available for sale to preserve such housing for long-term affordable housing.
Why we care:
- This bill will help local governments acquire and preserve much-needed affordable housing across the state. Preserving existing, “naturally affordable” housing is typically less expensive than building new, ground-up deed-restricted housing.
- Homes of this age and price range are often removed from the market because private investors are able to make offers with terms that can’t be matched by agencies who would be interested in purchasing the housing and preserving it as affordable. For example, agencies may have loan terms that require inspections and time to approve funding, where private actors can offer all cash closing, short closing periods, and waived inspections.
- We recognize that this effort will not encourage the production of additional homes, and much more ground-up development of homes is needed to resolve our housing crisis. However, enabling governments to preserve existing affordable housing is a worthwhile and cost-effective tool.
What should be changed? Update the criteria for a qualifying property in urban counties to 7 or more units.
SUPPORT: HB23-1184: Low-income Housing Property Tax Exemptions
What this is about:Some non-profit affordable housing developers receive property tax exemptions when producing housing for sufficiently low-income residents. This bill expands the definition of which organizations qualify for the exemption, to include a wide range of affordable housing non-profit as well as community land trusts. Updates “low-income” from 80% AMI all the way to 100% AMI. Clarifies that the exemption includes the period while the building is still under construction.
Why we care: Currently, non-profits that do not immediately qualify are able to use pass-through grants from qualifying organizations to take advantage of the tax exemption. This is bureaucratic waste that would be cut by this bill’s passage. Additionally, the expansion of the AMI definitions and construction period will help more affordable housing projects be built, yet the fiscal note on the bill is overall neutral to positive.