Colorado Senate backs bill to protect affordable rentals |

Colorado Senate backs bill to protect affordable rentals

DENVER (AP) – A bill aimed at protecting affordable rentals, especially in expensive resort communities, is advancing at the state Capitol.

The Senate gave initial approval to the measure Thursday. An earlier version was approved by the House.

The measure (House Bill 1017) would protect deals struck between local governments and developers to build affordable rental units. Depending on the terms of the deal, discounted rents could still be required even if the property is sold to a new owner.

The bill says that such voluntary deals don’t violate the state’s ban on rent control.

Bill backers, including the Colorado Municipal League, say the bill is needed because of a 2000 Colorado Supreme Court ruling that overturned an affordable housing ordinance in Telluride. That law required that most new developments create some affordable housing and allowed for the use of deed restrictions to maintain limited rents. Such restrictions would be allowed by the bill.

Cities and counties worry that speculators could use the Telluride case to unravel existing voluntary agreements to create affordable housing.

In Aspen, one property owner is using it to challenge the deed restrictions on some employee housing units that he now owns.

The Senate changed the bill to clarify that it only applies to voluntary deals and that cities and counties can’t punish developers who won’t agree to build affordable units by withholding development permits.

But oppenents say municipalities could still try to force a developer into making such deals and would have no recourse because governments are protected from lawsuits. Republican Senate leader Josh Penry tried but failed to give developers permission to sue if they were coerced.

Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, opposed the bill, saying resort areas were driving the need for affordable housing by paying “slave wages” to illegal immigrants.

Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, said she was incensed by his remarks, and said resort towns follow the law just like other parts of the state.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, and Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Denver.

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