Rent control ordinances have been illegal in Colorado, and rightly so, since 1981. That is not about to change. But you wouldn’t know it from listening to the powerful coalition determined to kill House Bill 1017.
We’re proud of this bill and what it will accomplish. This bill will do 3 things: it will allow towns and developers to negotiate for affordable housing in new developments, it will help people who live and work in places where there is a lack of affordable housing, and it will preserve public investment and make sure taxpayer dollars are not wasted.
It will do this by returning affordable housing laws back to the way they were prior to conflicting court rulings, so that cities, towns and counties, not the state government or the courts, have the authority to make local affordable housing decisions.
HB 1017 is a pro-economic development, pro-free market bill. Opponents claim that the legislation will bring “New York style rent control” to Colorado. These are scare tactics and the claim is false.
Approximately 250,000 families in Colorado still struggle to afford rent or find adequate housing. Across the State, demand for decent affordable rental housing equates to waiting lists of 5 years or more. When renters pay too large a portion of their wages for housing, they have little left to cover other necessities like food and health care. This can lead to increased use of community social services and increased demand on the finite resources of nonprofits, municipalities and the State.
Even opponents of this bill have conceded that that rents throughout Colorado have accelerated faster than inflation over the past decade, and that Colorado has a documented need for housing at the very low income levels. We can’t rely exclusively on federal programs to provide for the state’s affordable rental needs.
HB 1017 mandates nothing but simply allows local communities to find their own solutions to housing needs. HB 1017 encourages local creativity and non-reliance on federal government funding to provide adequate affordable rental housing as a unique community defines such need.
Any discussion of income levels and corresponding ability to afford housing is a complex equation when considering that Colorado’s communities are as diverse as our mountains are to our prairies. By allowing local governments to help developers with incentives to help meet specific, local housing needs, HB 1017 promotes economic activity, creates jobs, and stabilizes communities.
Rent for a two-bedroom apartment rose in 89 percent of 210 national markets studied, according to a study released just this week. But, ultimately housing is a local, not a national issue. It is not appropriate for Colorado to continue to restrict private developers and local communities from willingly and voluntarily contracting to meet housing need. This is especially true in times of tight budgets, when the State of Colorado has limited resources to help local communities with affordable housing development.
Local governments are willing to provide incentives that developers are asking for, but many are advised not to do so for fear that those taxpayer-funded incentives will be lost in a court battle. HB 1017 supports both local business and the Colorado economy. We urge the General Assembly to support efforts to give local communities the home-grown tools to address this important problem of adequate, safe, decent and affordable housing.
• Housing Colorado
• Rabbi Joel R. Schwartzman
• Thistle Communities
• Voices for Justice
• Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Colorado
• Joe Rowan, Executive Director, Funding Partners
• Ken Hoagland, President, Community Capital Corporation
• Sen. Betty Boyd (D- JeffCo)
• Rep. Daniel Kagan (D-Denver/Englewood)