Colorado’s legislature adjourned May 8 with lawmakers passing last-minute legislation on property tax abatement and taxpayer refunds and leaving a massive effort to reform land use policies statewide unfinished.
Amid the session’s chaotic end, legislators passed up chances to meaningfully advance housing stability and increase the supply of homes affordable to people living on low and fixed incomes. However, a handful of bills to help certain renters successfully passed alongside some measures with the potential to advance affordable housing.
Through it all, this year’s session made clear that affordable housing and housing stability will remain top issues for state lawmakers. Enterprise is grateful to have collaborated with myriad policymakers and stakeholders to shape or support many of the bills described here and we look forward to the shared work ahead.
Left on the Table
Three significant pieces of legislation endorsed by Enterprise did not make it through the legislative gauntlet this year.
- First, the wide-ranging effort to reform land use policies championed by Governor Polis, SB 213, was the most high-profile bill that did not make it. Advocates worked diligently with the Governor’s office, state departmental staff, and legislators to include significant provisions for the production and preservation of homes affordable to Coloradans living on low and fixed incomes and to help mitigate residential and commercial displacement. Key provisions of the bill that Enterprise hopes to see revived include:
- Thorough, publicly accessible housing needs assessments and plans at state, regional, and local levels based on verifiable data and using best practices.
- Requirements for larger urban municipalities and rural resort job centers to identify communities at heightened risk for displacement based on objective measures, and to respond accordingly with local policies and investments to mitigate displacement of low-income residents and small businesses.
- Measures to ensure the creation of homes affordable to lower-income individuals and families across the state — particularly in areas of accelerated development, such as near rail and bus transit or where upzoning occurs — while still providing flexibility for local governments to implement policies that make sense in their communities.
- Provisions for strategic growth that maximize climate resiliency, utilize existing infrastructure necessary for development such as water and sewer systems, and create broader access to high-opportunity neighborhoods.
- Establishment of a year-round legislative oversight committee and associated expert task force to track statewide progress on affordable housing and homelessness and bring forward policies to address unmet needs.
- Second, despite significant negotiations and thorough debate, an effort to limit the situations when evictions would be legally permissible also died on the legislative calendar. HB 1171 would have established circumstances under which a landlord could evict a renter for “just cause,” such as nonpayment of rent or violations of a lease agreement, or for reasons where the renter bore no fault, such as a landlord needing to move back into or sell their property. The bill would have curbed renters losing their homes in instances when landlords simply refuse to renew a lease term without clear or legal cause.
- Third, HB 1115, which would have removed a statewide prohibition on local governments enacting rent stabilization policies, also failed, even with amendments intended to ensure local measures restricting rent hikes would still enable rents at levels adequate for property upkeep and maintenance.
Bills That Passed
Even as lawmakers could not agree on some major initiatives, many bills did pass that stand to advance housing stability and affordable housing, especially when considered collectively.
A Helping Hand to Renters
SB 303, a contentious bill to reduce taxes for property owners, was amended to include up to $20 million in rental assistance for low-income households, individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and other vulnerable Coloradans —if sufficient funds remain after other allocations.
For those with limited resources searching for a rental unit, House Bill (HB) 1099 makes it possible for a prospective renter to pay for and use a single screening report for multiple rental applications, while Senate Bill (SB) 184 caps security deposits at two months’ rent and prohibits landlords from requiring a renter’s income be more than twice the annual rent. HB 1095 bars landlords from including certain provisions into leases that can harm to renters, including limits on the fees and service mark-ups landlords can charge. HB 1068 limits monthly pet rent and pet deposits, and SB 082 establishes the Colorado Fostering Success Voucher Program to provide housing vouchers and case management services to eligible young people aged 18-26.
Prior to moving forward with an eviction, under HB 1120, many landlords will now be required to undergo mediation with income-qualified renters living with disabilities and low-income renting families. The bill also requires renters be informed that state law prohibits landlords from discriminating against potential renters solely because they receive public benefits.
For renters facing eviction, HB 1186 enables remote participation in court proceedings and allows the renter to file a response to the landlord’s initial legal complaint through a secure website. And HB 1254 expands the conditions covered by the state’s existing “warranty of habitability” to include property damage caused by an environmental disaster such as wildfires or floods that pose a health risk, better ensuring renters’ right to a safe home.
Opportunities to Increase the Supply of Affordable Homes
Several successful bills have the potential to increase the number of homes affordable to low-income Coloradans, though the practical impact of most has yet to be seen.
In 2022, Colorado voters passed Proposition 123 to direct 0.1% of the state’s income tax revenue to housing for lower-income residents and housing stability programs. HB 1304 makes administrative changes to facilitate these programs’ implementation, makes tribal governments eligible for funding, and establishes a process for rural resort communities to petition the State for the ability to use funds to serve higher income households. The practical impact of these efforts depends on whether local governments opt into Proposition 123’s requirements for increasing their affordable housing stock, how baseline calculations for a community’s existing affordable units are determined, and how rural resort communities utilize their petition process.
Local governments have another new tool to preserve and create affordable homes, with HB 1190 guaranteeing municipalities and counties the opportunity to purchase certain multifamily properties on the market if they maintain rents affordable to income-qualified people. The program’s efficacy will depend on the market availability of qualifying properties, whether governments can secure funding and exercise their “right of first refusal” under tight timelines, and if rural and rural resort areas choose to keep rents affordable only to higher income residents, as the bill allows.
HB 1255 largely prohibits local governments and special districts from implementing new residential growth caps and from enforcing existing caps. This is particularly important for publicly funded housing, which often constitutes multi-family buildings, the type of development municipalities seeking to limit growth often want to disallow.
And SB 1 prioritizes 55 unused parcels of state-owned land and $15 million for the development of affordable housing and community amenities through public-private partnerships intended to accelerate the production of homes affordable to low-income Coloradans—though the initiative’s impact will rely heavily on how the State implements its flexible guidelines.
Additional Initiatives Affecting Affordability and Stability
Other successful efforts with implications for affordable housing and housing stability include:
- HB 1184 extends and expands tax exemptions for land owned by nonprofit organizations creating for-sale homes affordable to low and middle-income Coloradans.
- HB 1253 creates a task force to study home sales and ownership in Colorado, specifically homes partially or wholly owned by a corporation, and make recommendations on ways to address the issue of corporate homeownership across the state.
- HB 1296 establishes a task force comprising four subcommittees to assess and make policy recommendations on issues facing Coloradans living with disabilities, including housing affordability, accessibility, and attainability.