Far-reaching housing proposal would impact Colorado communities big and small
Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic state lawmakers unveiled the most significant land-use reform in decades last week. The sweeping new efforts to address Colorado’s housing crisis are focused on increasing residential density in the state’s cities and towns.
“This is how we will make more housing options for every Colorado budget in every community, drive down costs that are pricing Coloradans out of our homes and out of our neighborhoods,” Polis said.
The Common Sense Institute found Colorado had a housing shortage of 225,000 units in 2021, and the affordability of purchasing a home was the lowest in 33 years. According to the Bell Policy center, half of Colorado renters are cost-burdened, or spending more than a third of their income on housing.
The new proposal includes Senate Bill 213, which would mandate changes to zoning requirements across the state by preventing municipalities from limiting the construction of duplexes, triplexes, townhomes and housing add-ons in residential neighborhoods.
It does not, however, require construction of such housing.
The bill would also block limits on how many people who are not part of the same family can live in one unit and cut state regulations on things like manufactured homes.
“When we invest in bringing housing costs within reach for people at all income levels, and across all housing types, we build healthier, more vibrant and flourishing communities,” s aid Rep . Iman Jodeh, one of the bill’s main sponsors .
Specific land use changes in the bill vary depending on a community’s population size and specific housing needs.
The state’s biggest cities — referred to in the bill as T ier 1 cities — include those in the Denver m etro a rea as well as Greeley, Fort Collins, Loveland, Windsor, Colorado Springs, Fountain, Grand Junction and Pueblo. Under the bill, T ier 1 cities c annon limit the buil ding of duplexes, triplexes, multiplexes up to six units and accessory-dwelling units in residential neighborhoods . Th ose cit ies would also be blocked from requiring parking for those units.
The bill would also require T ier 1 cities to allow for multi-unit or multi-family buildings near transportation hubs, and would require them to develop long-term plans for their housing needs.
Tier 2 cities are municipalities with a population between 5,000 and 25,000, which are in counties with more than 250,000 people. Those communities would not be required to allow duplexes, triplexes and multi-unit housing in residential areas, but would have to allow for accessory dwelling units. They would not be subject to land-use changes around transportation hubs, but would have to develop a housing needs assessment.
The bill classifies towns such as Aspen, Steamboat Springs and Vail as rural resort job centers. Those communities would be required to allow for accessory dwelling units, and develop regional housing plans that include zoning for duplexes, triplexes and multiplexes. They would also be required to work with surrounding communities to improve public transportation.
Non-urban municipalities in the bill are communities with more than 5,000 people that are not in the previous categories. The bill would prohibit limits on accessory dwelling units in non-urban municipalities, but they won’t need to develop a long-term housing plan.
Housing advocates, business representatives and environmental leaders support the proposal. Some local government officials also support it, but others say it still needs work.
“Neither myself nor the city is officially supporting the bill in its current form,” Boulder mayor Aaron Brockett said. “We're sitting down at the table with the bill sponsors and negotiating over some changes.”
Brockett s aid requirements for multi-unit housing larger a triplex is not appropriate for a city like Boulder. He would also like to address the restrictions on parking requirements in the bill, and would like to see additional funding for constructing new housing through Boulder’s housing authority.
Municipalities are concerned the bill amounts to a loss of local land-use control. The Colorado Municipal League officially opposes the measure.
“Although the bill is being sold as a ‘menu of options’ with ‘flexibility’ to create affordability, it mainly benefits developer interests to the detriment to the quality of life and access to local elected officials expected by Coloradans and with no guarantees that anything built will be ‘affordable’,” Kevin Bommer, CML’s executive director, said in a written statement.
Instead, Bommer said his organization wants to see state-level funding and support for local efforts and regional partnerships to develop affordable housing and workforce housing.
A previous version of this story said Senate Bill 213 removes local growth caps. It does not. Another bill, House Bill 1255, would remove them.
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