Published in the May 11, 2017, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
State bills aim to encourage affordable housing
by Amy Reinholds
As the Colorado 2017 legislative session nears an end, more bills were introduced that aimed to encourage more affordable housing in our state. Only some survived the legislative session. What do you think? Do any of these bills sound like they could help encourage housing that working people in Lyons can afford to rent or buy?
One tenant rights bill survived
Because affordable rentals are challenging to find, let’s start by looking at bills dealing with rentals.
There is good news for Colorado Senate Bill 17-245, Tenancies One Month To One Year Notice, which was approved by the Senate and the House, and was sent to the Governor on May 1. For month-to-month rentals (or other leases for periods of one month or more but less than 6 months) this bill would extend termination notice for either the renter or the landlord from a 7-day notice to a 21-day notice. And it would also require landlords to give a 21-day notice for rent increases, which could help renters concerned about the frequency that landlords can raise rents. This bill is sponsored by Sen. Kevin Priola, a Republican from Adams County, and Rep. Dan Pabon, a Democrat from Denver County. You can keep track of this bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb17-245.
There was bad news for Colorado House Bill 17-310. The Residential Landlord Application Screening Fee bill was passed in the House but then was postponed indefinitely by the Senate Committee on State, Veterans, & Military Affairs on May 1. This bill proposed to limit application screening fees that landlords can charge prospective tenants to cover a landlord’s actual costs for a personal reference check or for obtaining a consumer credit report or tenant screening report. It would have required the landlord to a receipt that itemizes the landlord’s actual expenses (electronic or paper receipt if requested) and would have required the landlord to return any amount of the fee that is not used. The bill would have established a penalty for a landlord that does not comply with the requirements. This bill was sponsored by three Democrats: Rep. Chris Kennedy from Jefferson County, Rep. Dominique Jackson from Arapahoe County, and our local Sen. Stephen Fenberg from Boulder County, who represents Lyons. You can learn more about this bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1310.
A similar bill also was postponed indefinitely in the Senate. Colorado House Bill 17-1312, Residential Lease Copy And Rent Receipt, passed the House but then was but then was postponed indefinitely by the Senate Committee on State, Veterans, & Military Affairs on May 4. This bill would have required landlords to provide each tenant with a copy of a written rental agreement signed by all parties and to give tenants a receipt for a payments made with cash or a money order (electronic or paper receipt if requested). The sponsors were Rep. Adrienne Benavidez from Adams County and Rep. Tony Exum from El Paso County, both Democrats. You can learn more about this bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1312.
Bills related to homeownership, funding future affordable housing, didn’t make it
Two other “affordable housing” bills that are related to people buying homes in Colorado, including one that aimed to raise new funds to support a statewide affordable housing investment fund, also lost.
Colorado House Bill 17-1311, Seller’s Disclosure Estimated Future Property Tax, passed the House but and was postponed indefinitely in the Senate Committee on Finance. The bill would have required sellers of newly contructed housing units to disclose an estimate of future property taxes. Sponsors of the bill were Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet from Adams County and Rep. Mike Weissman from Araphaoe County, both Democrats. You can learn more about this failed bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1311.
Colorado House Bill 17-1309, Documentary Fee To Fund Affordable Housing, was passed in the House but then was postponed indefinitely by the Senate Committee on State, Veterans, & Military Affairs on May 3. The bill proposed to raise the current one cent documentary fee for each $100 of such consideration for the recording of real estate deeds that county clerks collect to 2 cents, starting on January 1, 2018. Then 50% of the money generated from the fee would be transmitted by the county treasurers to the Colorado housing and finance authority at least once each month to be credited to a statewide affordable housing investment fund. The proposed fund would have supported new or existing programs that facilitate the construction or rehabilitation of housing units designated as affordable housing and would provide financial assistance to any nonprofit entity or political subdivision that makes loans to households to enable the financing, purchase, or rehabilitation of residential units. The bill defined “affordable housing” as housing that is affordable for households with an income that is up to 80% of the area median income for rentals and up to 110% of the area median income for home ownership. Sponsors were Democrats Rep. Dominique Jackson, Rep. Faith Winter, Sen. Lucia Guzman, and Sen. Don Coram. You can learn more about this failed bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1309.
One “construction defect” bill to encourage more condos in Colorado looks likely
This final category of bills has been around the longest, with a debate continuing from past years. Supporters of reforming current Colorado construction defect law hope to encourage more condo development in Colorado, which is a lower-cost home-ownership opportunity, by reducing the number of lawsuits for faulty construction of condominiums. This would only be affordable for Coloradans who can afford to buy condos, and it would be a free-market approach.
There were at least 4 bills attempting to reform Colorado construction defect law, intending to reduce the number of lawsuits for faulty construction of condominiums in current Colorado construction defect law, a barrier some developers have blamed for slowing down condo development in Colorado. But proponents for consumers didn’t want condo homeowners to be at risk for shoddy construction.
The successful bill is Colorado House Bill 17-1279, Construction Defect Actions Notice Vote Approval, which was more on the side of buyer than the developers, with more support from Democrats. It passed both houses on May 4. Before the executive board of a home owners’ association (HOA) in a “common interest community” brings suit against a developer or builder based on a defect in construction work not ordered by the HOA itself, the board must complete the following steps: 1) Notify all unit owners and the developer or builder against whom the lawsuit is being considered; 2) Call a meeting at which the executive board and the developer or builder will have an opportunity to present relevant facts and arguments and the developer or builder may, but is not required to, make an offer to remedy the defect; and 3) Obtain the approval of a majority of the unit owners (in a 90-day voting period) before proceeding with the lawsuit, after giving homeowners detailed disclosures about the lawsuit and its potential costs and benefits. You can keep track of this bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1279.
The Homeownership Opportunity Alliance – a collaboration of business groups, developers, contractors, affordable housing nonprofits, and metro area mayors (including the Town of Lyons mayor) – originally got behind Colorado Senate Bill 17-156, Homeowners’ Association Construction Defect Lawsuit Approval Timelines. The bill was sponsored by three Republicans, and passed the Senate but was postponed indefinitely in the the House Committee on State, Veterans, & Military Affairs on April 20. You can learn more about this failed bill at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb17-156. On May 1, the Homeownership Opportunity Alliance eventually supported the winning House Bill 17-1279 instead.
Other bills that attempted to reform Colorado construction defect law that didn’t get very far but are still officially under consideration are Colorado Senate Bill 17-45, Construction Defect Claim Allocation Of Defense Costs, and Colorado Senate Bill 17-155, Statutory Definition Of Construction Defect. You can learn more about these bills at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb17-045, and www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb17-155.
This is a weekly commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder about affordable housing. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds@ hotmail.com. For a history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers posted on my blog at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. The Town of Lyons lost a total of about 70 flood-destroyed homes to both the federal buyout programs (including the 16 homes in the Foothills Mobile Home Park) and to the changed use of the Riverbend Mobile Home Park property to an event venue (rezoned for commercial use). In March 2015, a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes (a total of 50-70 units) on five to seven acres of Bohn Park was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in a special election. At the end of 2016, Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley purchased six residential lots in Lyons to build three permanently affordable duplexes.