Colorado housing bill amended, but city leaders' group remains wary of losing land use authority to state

A bill that would have been the most sweeping change to land use in Colorado in 40 years was pared back Wednesday, and those who opposed it are reconsidering their position.

Colorado housing bill amended, but city leaders' group remains wary of losing land use authority to state

It is likely that the organization representing Colorado's towns and cities will support affordable housing legislation supported by Gov. Jared Polis, now that the preemption of local governments’ land use powers has been removed from the bill.

After a Wednesday morning amendement, the Colorado Municipal League may be in favor of Governor Bill 23-213, also known as 'More Housing Now.' This bill would have overridden municipalities' abilities to prevent duplexes or triplexes from being built within neighborhoods designated for single-family homes.

Kevin Bommer said, 'If we had started here, we could have reached a deal on this bill in January'.

Leaders of cities and towns can support policies that encourage more affordable housing and dense development -- something many municipalities do on their own. But they were surprised when Polis called housing affordability an issue of statewide concern earlier this year. This implied that local governments would be relegated to a secondary role in land-use decisions.

Bommer stated that 'even if we agreed with your concerns about policy, once you said that, you are going about things all wrong'.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and Colorado Springs mayor John Suthers have both criticized the idea of state preemption of land use authority as being a step too much. This is despite the fact that they share the same goal to curb the rise in housing costs and to build more homes to keep up with demand.

Dominick Moreno (Democrat, State Senate Majority leader) representing parts of Adams County and Arapahoe County, presented a 39-page amendement Wednesday morning to remove the elements of the bill that called for state preemption over local land use authority. In a vote along party lines, the Senate appropriations panel approved the amendment. The bill was then sent to the Senate for consideration before it is heard at the House.

Bommer stated that the CML would be generally comfortable with the bill, as amended. The CML will also formally support the bill if the amendments are not made to the clauses which override the land use authority of cities and towns.

Bommer told the audience, 'We're still not there,' but that was just the beginning.

He is concerned that preemption may be inserted back into the bill in future votes as amendments. This was also a concern raised by Sen. Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada, a Democrat who swung the vote for the majority on the committee.

Bommer, a CML representative, said that the CML is hoping to hear from Polis and leaders of the state House that they will not try to reintroduce state preemption in this bill.

SB23-213, the amended bill, would require local government officials from the largest cities and resort towns to assess housing needs and develop a plan for affordable housing in consultation with the Department of Local Affairs of the State and a 13 member advisory committee. The committee will begin meeting before the fall.

The committee would then form subcommittees to deal with urban community plans and plans for rural resort communities.

Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee complained to the Senate that the Governor would appoint seven members and members of his Cabinet, while the Legislature would appoint five other seats.

Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer of Weld County, a Republican, described it as a group of 12 bureaucrats with one seat reserved for someone from the public who has a background in property.

She said that the land use is still being centralized to a Denver committee.

Kirkmeyer advocated a more open process and held six housing "summit" meetings throughout the state in order to develop affordable housing strategies that could be implemented by local communities, rather than forming a committee.

Moreno's amendment, for example, would prohibit local governments from imposing different housing occupancy limits on unrelated individuals than they do for families and other related people.

These housing occupancy limitations have been used to limit the number unrelated individuals who can reside in rental properties. Moreno has said that he looked into why these rules were adopted, especially in Commerce City, in his district. He found they often target a certain type of resident.

Moreno stated that 'often they talk about 'too much Mexicans in one home'.

He said that the bill includes a provision requiring that limits be the same whether a person is related or not.