Published in the April 25, 2019, edition of the Lyons Recorder.
COMMENTARY: What’s the future of affordable housing in Lyons?
Bills in the state legislature could affect tenants, landlords, mobile home parks, funding for affordable housing
by Amy Reinholds
The Colorado Legislative Session ends May 3, and the future of several bills that affect housing in Colorado will be wrapping up in the next week and a half. Some directly affect funding and building of new subsidized affordable housing, and others affect tenants, landlords, and mobile home parks and how they interact with market-rate rents.
In the next sections, I aim to summarize each bill. The first four bills are expected to affect tenants and landlords in Colorado. The last five are broader issues. The most controversial is allowing local governmental policies that limit rent increases (also known as rent control). The other four are about funding for new affordable housing built in the state: increasing the state housing development grant fund, more incentives and opportunities for land and for developers who build affordable housing, expanding the state Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, and state income-tax credits for employer-assisted housing in rural areas.
Bills are constantly changing as they go through hearings before committees in the state house and senate. For the most up-to-date information, see the links to leg.colorado.gov for each bill.
Rental applications and fees for prospective tenants: House Bill 19-1106
HB19-1106, sponsored by Rep. Brianna Titone (D-Arvada), Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez (D-Denver), and Sen. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood), addresses possible high costs when tenants are searching for places to rent and paying application fees.
The bill states that landlords can charge prospective tenants rental application fees only if they use the entire amount of the fee to cover their costs in processing the rental application. Landlords must provide a disclosure of their anticipated expenses or a receipt that itemizes the expenses that the application fee covers. According to the bill, a landlord also may not charge a prospective tenant a rental application fee that is in a different amount than a rental application fee charged to another prospective tenant who applies to rent the same dwelling unit (or any other dwelling unit offered by the landlord, if the landlord offers more than one unit for rent).
There are also limits on how far back landlords can search rental, credit history, and criminal history, with exceptions for some kinds of arrests. Landlords who deny a rental application must provide the applicant a notice of denial that states the reason.
Meghan Pfanstiel, the Government Affairs Coordinator for the Boulder Area Rental Housing Association, reported at the Longmont Landlord Training Alliance on April 17 that the bill had made it through both houses and was sent to the governor to sign. She said it is expected to be signed into law with an effective date of Aug. 2, 2019.
You can read more about the bill and follow its status at leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1106. [Update: The Governor signed the bill on Aug. 25.]
Tenants health and safety act: House Bill 19-1170
HB19-1170, sponsored by Rep. Dominique Jackson (D-Aurora), Rep. Mike Weissman (D-Aurora), Sen. Angela Williams (D-Denver), and Sen. Jeff Bridges (D-Greenwood Village), aims to increase tenant protections relating to the residential warranty of habitability.
Current law allows landlords “a reasonable time” after receiving a written notice to fix the problems that make a residential premise uninhabitable, materially dangerous, or hazardous. This bill proposes allowing either electronic or written notice, and gives the landlords 24 hours to fix the conditions that are “materially dangerous or hazardous to the tenant’s life, health, or safety” or 72 hours to fix conditions “where the premises is uninhabitable or otherwise unfit for human habitation.” The landlord breaches the warranty if these fixes are not made.
The bill also adds additional conditions that make a residential premises “uninhabitable,” and includes language about landlords retaliating against tenants who make complaints about habitability. Pfanstiel said that the bill would allow tenants to withhold rent and pay for the repairs, but that there are penalties if tenants wrongfully withhold rent.
Pfanstiel said at the Longmont Landlord Training Alliance on April 17 that the bill was scheduled for a conference committee for April 19, was expected to pass, but would not go into effect until Aug. 2. You can read more about this bill and follow its status at leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1170.
More time for a tenant to cure a lease violation that is not a substantial violation: House Bill 19-1118
HB19-1118, sponsored by Rep. Dominique Jackson (D-Aurora), Rep. Rochelle Galindo (D-Greeley) and Sen. Angela Williams (D-Denver), requires a landlord or property manager to provide a tenant 7-days notice (instead of the 3-day notice in current state law), to cure a violation for unpaid rent or for the first violation of any other condition or covenant of a lease agreement (other than a substantial violation), before the landlord can terminate the lease and initiate eviction proceedings.
The eviction process in Colorado is already a long process for all parties – tenants and landlords – with many mandated deadlines and steps that landlords and tenants meet to have the case resolved in court. Landlords who initiate the eviction process for unpaid rent and follow it through all the steps currently need to plan for at least one additional month (maybe two months, depending on court dates) when rent is not paid, and before the tenant moves out.
Pfanstiel said at the April 17 meeting in Longmont that the bill passed both the House and Senate and that her organization had been lobbying to reduce the time to notice from 10 days to 7 days. It was scheduled for conference committee at the end of last week. You can read more about the bill and follow its status at leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1118.
Mobile Home Parks: House Bill 19-1309
Rep. Edie Hooton (D-Boulder), Rep. Julie McCluskie (D-Dillon), and Sen. Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder) sponsored a bill that would grant counties the power to enact ordinances for mobile home parks, extend the time to move or sell a mobile home after eviction proceedings, and create a Mobile Home Park Dispute Resolution and Enforcement Program.
Rep. Hooton, who spoke at an affordable housing panel that Rep. Jonathan Singer held at the Longmont Senior Center on April 13, said that a 1985 Mobile Home Parks act “never had an enforcement mechanism for mobile home owners to settle with mobile home park owners.” She said that mobile home owners went to the Department of Regulatory Agencies and asked for an investigation into several issues that mobile home home owners were facing with their landlords (owners of mobile home parks). The result was a “sunrise review” and a report that found loose regulatory structure and lack of enforcement. Hooton said this bill aims to address those kinds of regulatory issues between mobile home owners who rent lots from mobile home park owners.
One of the most difficult issues is the cost of moving a mobile home when forced to leave or evicted from a mobile home park, Hooton said. “It costs $20,000” to move a mobile home,” she said.
She said the bill would extend the amount of time that mobile home owners have to move their homes from a mobile home park after an eviction from the current 48 hours to 30 days. Also, to respond to failure of payment of lot rent, mobile home owners would have 10 days to respond before the eviction process starts, extended from the current 5 days.
At that same panel discussion on April 13, Michael Pierce of the Colorado Coalition of Manufactured Home Owners said that “finding legal help is almost impossible” for mobile home owners who have disputes with mobile home park owners. “We need a way – and a fair way – to address issues,” he said, noting that the proposed Mobile Home Park Dispute Resolution and Enforcement Program is based on a model in Washington state.
The bill passed the house floor on third reading with amendments on April 22 and was introduced in the Senate. You can read more about this bill and follow its status at leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1309.
Repealing existing law that prohibits local government ordinances that control rent on private residential properties: Senate Bill 19-225
Sen. Julie Gonzales (D-Denver), Sen. Robert Rodriguez (D-Denver), Rep. Susan Lontine (D-Denver), and Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez (D-Denver) sponsored a bill that would lift a 1981 ban on rent control policies in the state, which would give local governments the ability to enact rent-control measures in the future.
In general, “rent control” policies restrict the amount landlords can increase the rent on residential properties. A February 2019 study produced by PolicyLink, the Center for Popular Democracy, and the Right To The City Alliance found that “Tenants living in rent-controlled units move less frequently, are less likely to experience destabilizing forced moves, and pay substantially less than tenants in non-regulated units of similar size and quality.” You can read the entire report at ourhomesourfuture.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/OurHomesOurFuture_Web-fin.pdf.
According to a March 2019 summary of a Standford study by Rebecca Diamond, Tim McQuade, and Franklin Qian, about rent control in San Francisco, “on average, in the medium to long term, the beneficiaries of rent control are between 10 and 20% more likely to remain in their homes” but also that “landlords actively respond to the imposition of rent control by converting their properties to condos or Tenancy in Common (TIC) properties or by redeveloping the building in such as a way as to exempt it from the regulations. Landlords reduced the supply of available rental housing by 15%.” You can read the entire report at web.stanford.edu/~diamondr/DMQ.pdf.
Pfanstiel pointed to a possible reduction in the overall supply of rental housing as a outcome and told the Longmont Landlord Training Alliance on April 17: “This one I see as defeatable. There are a lot of moderate Democrats who aren’t for this.”
However, Pfanstiel described an alternate idea she heard during testimony for the bill that she said she found interesting: giving incentives like property tax credits to landlords who voluntarily agree to keep rents low.
The bill passed the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs committee on April 15 and was scheduled for second reading on April 22 in the Senate. You can read more about this bill and follow its status at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb19-225.
Funding to expand the supply of affordable housing: House Bill 19-1322
Rep. Dylan Roberts (D-Steamboat Springs), Rep. Perry Will (R-New Castle), Sen. Dominick Moreno (D-Commerce City), and Sen. Don Coram (R-Montrose) sponsored a bill that requires the state treasurer to transfer a specified amount of money commencing with the 2019-20 state fiscal year and through and including the 2025-26 state fiscal year from the unclaimed property trust fund to the Division of Housing in the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to be deposited into the housing development grant fund.
The bill was introduced in the House on April 12, and the House Committee on Finance referred the amended bill to the Appropriations committe on April 17. You can read more about this bill and follow its status at www.leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1322.
Flexible funding and incentives for affordable housing developers: HB 19-1319
Rep. Shannon Bird (D-Westminster), Rep. Hugh McKean (R-Loveland), Sen. Faith Winter (D-Westminster), and Sen. Dennis Hisey (R-Colorado Springs) sponsored a bill that would identify nondeveloped land owned by the state that could be developed for affordable housing purposes and modify the administration of an existing property tax exemption that applies to certain affordable housing developments.
The bill passed the House on third reading on April 22 and was introduced in the Senate and assigned to the Finance committee. You can read more about this bill and follow its status at leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1319.
Expanded state Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC): HB 19-1228
Rep. Shannon Bird (D-Westminster), Rep. Brianna Titone (D-Arvada), Rep. Rachel Zenzinger (D-Arvada), and Sen. Jack Tate (D-Centennial) sponsored a bill that would raise the cap of total allowed state tax credits from the current $5 million to $10 million. The tax credit raises private sector equity needed to support the development and preservation of affordable housing.
On April 16, the bill passed the House on third reading and was assigned to the Senate finance committee. You can read more about this bill and follow its status at leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1228.
A state income-tax credit pilot program to promote employer-assisted housing projects in rural areas: HB 19-1075
Rep. Jim Wilson (R-Salida) sponsored a bill that would create a pilot tax credit of up to $400 for donations to nonprofit sponsors of employer-assisted housing projects in rural areas of the state (defined as a nonmetropolitan county with 50,000 or fewer residents).
The bill has been sitting in the House Appropriations committee since Feb. 7, so it’s not clear if anything will be done before the end of the session. You can read more about this bill and follow its status at leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb19-1075.
This column is a commentary (opinion column) in the Lyons Recorder. For a history, you can read previous columns from both Lyons-area newspapers at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, please contact me directly at areinholds @hotmail.com.