Rent control for Colorado mobile homes is doomed by Jared Polis veto threat

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Mobile home housing in Eagle County, Colorado, Monday, June 7, 2021.

Lawmakers on Friday moved to significantly trim back a bill that aimed to protect mobile home park residents from big rent hikes — after Gov. Jared Polis threatened to veto it.

The bill, HB22-1287, would have set a cap on annual rent increases for mobile homes, making it the first statewide instance of rent stabilization or rent control. 

Polis told sponsors he would veto the bill if the rent limits weren't removed, according to Democratic Rep. Andy Boesenecker. Boesenecker claimed his bill had enough support to pass the legislature as it was, but in the face of Polis’ opposition, he planned on Friday to amend it.

“Absent another policy solution from the office of the governor to address this well-stated need, we felt it was necessary to pull lot rent stabilization out of the bill in order to ensure these other vital protections for residents,” said Boesenecker, a first-year representative, in an interview.

The amended bill still includes several other reforms, such as protections for residents whose parks go up for sale.

“The Governor believes that prefab modular homes and mobile homes are an important part of the housing solution for our state and supports mobile home reforms as long as they won’t lead to the closure or abandonment of mobile home communities,” wrote Conor Cahill, a spokesman for the governor, in an email. He also pointed to other housing efforts underway in state government.

Boesenecker said he spoke with the governor, but that Polis hadn’t offered any alternatives for limiting rent hikes.

The leaders of the House and Senate have also met with Polis on the bill. House Speaker Alec Garnett declined to comment on their conversation, but Garnett said that he supports the rent-stabilization proposal. Senate President Steve Fenberg also supported rent stabilization, a spokesman said.

The rent-stabilization measure would have limited rent increases to 3 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is higher.

The idea of limits on rent increases drew intense opposition from landlords, who said it would prevent them from collecting necessary revenue to make improvements to their properties. But the bill’s sponsors argued that mobile home residents need the protections because they face especially dire situations.

"Imagine how you would feel if the generational wealth … was robbed from you and your family simply because we could not find a solution to this issue," Boesenecker said in a speech on the floor.

Republicans thanked Polis for his opposition, saying that rent limits would have led to unintended side effects. Rent control is "bad economics," warned Rep. Kevin Van Winkle.

Large investors are buying up mobile home parks and raising rents — which advocates say is simply exploiting residents who have few other affordable housing options. Often, park residents own the mobile home structure but pay rent on the ground underneath, and it may be prohibitively expensive to move their home to another park.

“We are disappointed in the governor for not standing with working class community members most impacted by the current economic crisis. Our neighbors in mobile home parks needed this cap to care for their families and make ends meet,” wrote Dre Chiriboga-Flor, state director of the working women’s advocacy group 9to5 Colorado, in an email. A representative for the mobile-home industry wasn’t immediately available for comment.

With rent control eliminated, the bill still would have a menu of significant changes, including some aimed at giving residents a greater chance to purchase the parks where they live. 

“We can disagree on the policy,” Boesenecker said. “At the end of the day, we know that the rest of the protections need to pass.”

He would have to explain to constituents that members of the legislature were willing to support them, he said, but that he couldn’t speak for others in the capitol building.

The bill also would:

  • Extend the “opportunity to purchase” window. If a park goes up for sale, residents currently have 90 days to get organized and make a competing bid. That period would be extended to 180 days.
  • Give local governments and other public entities the “right of first refusal” to intervene in a sale. If a city can beat the best purchase offer, the owner would have to sell to the local government instead.
  • Require landlords to pay residents if a park is shut down and redeveloped. They could receive relocation costs or payment for the value of their home.
  • Tighten regulations around fees and evictions.