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Colorado Legislature makes affordable housing push in stretch run of session

April 22, 2019, 1:23 pm
Workforce housing, such as these Solar Vail units, has been a major push in Vail.

RealVail.com over the weekend took a look at a couple of Democratic affordable housing bills aimed at easing the ongoing crisis in mountain communities and across the state, producing a story that ran in the Vail Daily. One of those bills passed in the state house on Monday, as did another bill aimed at improving conditions for mobile home residents.

Here’s a re-post of a version of the story that first appeared in the Vail Daily, followed by a press release from the Colorado House Democrats on the passage of two bills that could help with the housing crunch in Eagle County and other mountain resort areas.

Lawmakers look to fund affordable housing in waning days of session

With just two weeks left in the legislative session, Colorado lawmakers are scrambling to pass a pair of bills that could help ease the affordable housing crunch in Eagle County.

House Bill 1322, sponsored by state Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, would require the state treasurer to transfer a portion of the unclaimed property trust fund to the Colorado Division of Housing for a housing development grant fund.

“My bill will dedicate up to $40 million a year into a statewide housing fund in a fiscally responsible way — it does not raise any taxes or fees — that will be used as a grant program for local public-private partnerships that are working to develop housing units, provide rental assistance in rural areas, and other innovative partnerships,” Roberts said.

The bill passed out of House Finance Committee on a 9-2 vote last week, with two Republicans — Rep. Rod Pelton, R-Cheyenne Wells, and Rep. Janice Rich, R-Grand Junction — joining all seven Democrats in voting to send it to the House Appropriations Committee this week.

“This bill, along with other housing bills, could result in an historic change in the way the state supports affordable housing development and access in Colorado, especially in the mountain communities that I represent,” said Roberts, who represents Eagle and Routt counties.

The unclaimed property trust fund consists of dormant bank accounts, securities and life insurance proceeds and other unclaimed funds the treasurer attempts to return to Colorado residents every year with varying degrees of success. In the past it’s been used for dental benefits and adult Medicaid recipients, according to the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

HB 1322 would support home ownership and rental assistance for people making up to 120 percent of area median income (AMI), which is critical in high cost-of-living areas like Eagle County. State housing support currently ends at 80 percent AMI.

The Vail Valley Partnership, whose board of governors has identified affordable housing as its number one priority, cites Eagle County’s overall 176.3 cost of living index against the nationwide average of 100 and its off-the-scale 340 housing cost index.

“Currently and anecdotally, units that have been long-term workforce rentals are being removed from that market as they are converted into short-term rentals,” the valley-wide chamber states. “This has the potential to grow both catch-up and keep-up needs for workforce housing. We want to ensure our community can remain competitive to keep locals local and to support our business community.”

In resort areas, the high cost of land and construction dictates the need for public sector participation in workforce and attainable housing projects. Ski towns across the country are exploring all sorts of creative public-private partnership models, and recent polling shows 60 percent of Coloradans say there’s a housing crisis in their community.

Another bill, HB 1245, would increase affordable housing funding by capping the amount of sales taxes large retailers retain as a fee for collecting the tax. The bill, which is on the House floor this week, could result in an additional $50 million a year for the affordable housing fund.

“Both HB 1322 and HB 1245 address the affordable housing problem in targeted and creative ways with no implications to taxpayers or other budget priorities,” the CCLP states. “Together, these bills could help thousands of Coloradans better afford a home and let them devote more of their hard-earned money to other essential needs.”

Although not a sponsor, Roberts also supports HB 1245, citing its creative method of funding housing while not dipping into existing general fund sources. Other housing bills introduced this session sought to increase fees or provide tax credits for housing, and Democrats are rejecting those after finalizing a hard-fought $30.5 billion budget.

Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida, has been trying to incentivize employee housing in rural areas since joining the legislature in 2013. He floated a state tax credit pilot program, HB19-1075 (pdf), that for the first made it out of the House Finance Committee. It would have allowed for a 20 percent state tax credit on donations to nonprofit housing authorities developing workforce housing in rural areas, but it appears the bill will once again be stalled before going to the House floor.

“In the rural areas in particular, if you’re  a business person and you want to expand that business, there’s no housing there, so if we can give some incentives to rural areas and employers to have some kind of a tax credit, albeit very small, let’s at least see if it’s going to work,” Wilson said earlier this year.

And here’s the press release on Monday’s legislative actions from the Colorado House Democrats:

House Approves Bills to Increase and Strengthen Access to Affordable Housing

(Apr. 22) — The House approved three bills today that would increase access to affordable housing across the state. 

HB19-1309 creates a low cost and effective Mobile Home Park Act Dispute Resolution and Enforcement Program within the Department of Local Affairs Housing Division. It also provides counties the same permissive authority that home-rule municipalities have to enact and enforce regulations. 

“Colorado mobile home owners have been raising serious concerns for years about mistreatment from park owners. There are more than 900 mobile parks in Colorado and the lack of enforcement of existing laws is troubling,” said Rep. Hooton, D-Boulder. “This bill will protect Coloradans who are being exploited by relatively loose regulatory structures.” 

In addition, HB19-1309 extends the time a homeowner has to sell or move from their home after an eviction from 48 hours to 30 days, and extends the time to cure a late payment from five days to ten days. The bill would help provide protections for mobile home park residents. 

“In rural communities, affordable housing is at a premium and mobile home parks are an essential part of the solution to our housing crisis,” said Rep. McCluskie, D-Dillon. “However, there are many concerns about how residents are being treated in parks. This bill will create a process for effectively resolving conflicts so mobile home parks can remain a strong housing option for Coloradans.” 

The bill passed on a final vote of 41-23. 

The House also passed HB19-1245, sponsored by Rep. Mike Weissman. This bill would contribute more funding to the Housing Development Grant Fund within the Department of Local Affairs. The funding could then be used to improve, preserve, or expand the supply of affordable housing in Colorado. 

“This bill is a significant and meaningful approach to address the state’s affordable housing crisis,” said Rep. Weissman, D-Aurora. “Housing can strengthen a person’s ability to support a family, maintain a job and live a healthy life. This bill is a calibrated approach that would benefit all of Coloradans – especially our most vulnerable families and individuals.” 

Under current law, a business can keep 3.3 percent of sales tax that it collects for administration purposes. With this new bill, vendors can retain up to four percent of the vendor fees up to a $1,000 monthly cap. This minor statutory change will result in roughly $23 million in revenue in the first year and would invest $45-50 million per year afterwards. A third of these funds would be used to provide affordable housing to low income families. 

HB19-1245 passed by a final vote of 36-28. It now heads to the Senate. 

Finally, the House approved a bipartisan bill, HB19-1319 sponsored by Rep. Shannon Bird, D-Westminster, that would create incentives to assist land developers in providing affordable housing statewide, and also identify undeveloped land owned by the state that could be developed for affordable housing purposes. 

“Too many hardworking Coloradans are not able to afford a place to live,” said Rep. Bird, D-Westminster. “This is a problem in urban, suburban and rural communities. So many people and communities are counting on us to address this challenge and to make meaningful change. This bill will help our state make use of un-utilized property and remove obsolete regulatory hurdles that stand in the way of funding affordable housing.” 

HB19-1319 passed with a bipartisan vote of 63-1. It now heads to the Senate. 

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is the editor and co-founder of RealVail.com and has had his awarding-winning work (see About Us) published in more than 75 newspapers and magazines around the world, including 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), the Anchorage Daily Press (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Casper Star Tribune (Wyoming), the Chicago Tribune, Colorado Central Magazine, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), Colorado Newsline, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Colorado Times Recorder, the Cortez Journal, the Craig Daily Press, the Curry Coastal Pilot (Oregon), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Del Norte Triplicate (California), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Gazette, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, Explore Big Sky (Mont.), the Fort Morgan Times (Colorado), the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), the Kingman Daily Miner (Arizona), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the Las Vegas Sun, the Leadville Herald-Democrat, the London Daily Mirror, the Moab Times Independent (Utah), the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), the Montrose Daily Press, The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, the Rio Blanco Herald Times (Colorado), Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), the Salt Lake Tribune, SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Sky-Hi News, the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Sterling Journal Advocate (Colorado), the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Health Magazine, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail, Westword (Denver), Writers on the Range and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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