15 ways housing, development and renters’ rights could change in Colorado this year

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A condo development under construction in Frisco, Sept. 21, 2023. As high-end homes continue to be built in Summit County area, there’s a chronic shortage of affordable housing for the local workforce.

Colorado may soon have a bunch of new laws related to housing.

Democrats in the statehouse, with the backing of Gov. Jared Polis, have advanced a series of measures that would push cities to loosen development restrictions in a variety of ways. The goal is a Colorado that is denser, and potentially more affordable, as the population continues to climb, though that idea has drawn strong objections from local governments and Republicans.

Meanwhile, lawmakers also have tried to pass additional protections for renters and to boost affordable housing.

Here’s a quick summary of what lawmakers are debating in the final weeks of session.

Changing the rules for growth

Historically, local governments have made most of the decisions about what can be built, and where.

But, in recent years, Democrats and Gov. Polis have proposed some mandatory changes to how cities grow. Their initial effort failed last year with the collapse of SB23-213, a sweeping proposal that had aimed to force widespread changes in zoning rules. 

This year, they’re trying to pass a series of smaller measures instead.

Denser housing near buses and trains

HB24-1313 would force perhaps the biggest change. It would strongly push cities to allow denser development near their bus and rail lines. 

The state would assign each city a housing goal, based on how many high-frequency bus and train lines cross the area. The city would then have to change its zoning to ensure a certain number of housing units can be built in areas near the transit lines.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
RTD's Belleview Station in south Denver's Southmoor Park neighborhood. May 5, 2023.

Originally, the proposal would have penalized noncompliant cities by taking away their money from the Highway Users Tax Fund — one of the most controversial parts of the measure. But the bill’s sponsors said they would remove that provision.

Applies to: Many cities on the Front Range, and Grand Junction

Status: Passed the House, onto the Senate

Allowing “granny flats” or ADUs

HB24-1152 would force cities to allow more homeowners to build smaller secondary residences — also known as accessory dwelling units or ADUs — on their property. 

The bill would set requirements for cities, saying that ADUs should generally be permitted wherever single-family homes are allowed and that cities must allow them to be a reasonable size.

Applies to: Many cities on the Front Range, and Grand Junction

Status: Passed the House and its first committee in the Senate.

Eliminating parking requirements

In many cities, new development has to include a certain number of parking spaces. In Thornton, for example, apartment units must have one parking spot for every 500 square feet of living space — up to three spots for a single apartment.

These requirements are known as “parking minimums,” and critics say they lead to money and land being gobbled up by parking lots — rather than new housing.

HB24-1304 would ban the use of parking minimums. Instead, developers could decide how much parking to include in a new project. Critics argue this could lead to a shortage of parking in areas that rely on cars. 

Supporters counter that developers still have to include enough parking to make their buildings appealing to tenants — and the banks that fund development also set their own requirements for parking.

Applies to: Many cities on the Front Range, and Grand Junction

Status: Passed the House, onto the Senate

Planning for growth

SB24-174 is a bipartisan measure, and it’s being run by two lawmakers who posed challenges to last year’s big land-use bill: Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer (R) and Sen. Rachel Zenzinger (D).

Instead of rewriting zoning rules at the state level, the pair want Colorado communities to develop their own “local housing needs assessment” as well as housing action plans to meet those needs. Those reports would feed into a statewide needs assessment.

Both the state and local assessments would be repeated every six years. The bill includes financial incentives for local governments that publish and make progress on their housing action plans.

Applies to: Local governments with populations of 1,000 or more

Status: Passed Senate committee votes, awaiting action on the Senate floor

Affordable housing development

While much of this year’s focus is on boosting market-rate development, the state is still working on the supply of designated affordable housing too. These are units where prices are regulated and only people with lower incomes can rent or buy.

Right of first refusal

HB24-1175 would give local governments the first chance to buy certain affordable housing buildings when they are sold. If the local entity can match the best offer on a building, it gets to buy it. The right only applies to buildings that took advantage of tax credits and other government benefits to create affordable housing. This “right of first refusal” would expire in 2030.

The bill would also require sellers to give advance notice when putting certain older apartment buildings on the market. Critics say it’s an impingement on property owners’ rights. Gov. Jared Polis vetoed a much broader version of the proposal last year.

Applies to: The right of first refusal applies to affordable housing buildings with five or more units. The more general notification requirements apply to buildings with 15 to 100 units that are at least 30 years old.

Status: Passed the House, now in the Senate

More tax funding

HB24-1434 would expand funding for affordable housing developments, allowing the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority to distribute an additional $768 million of tax credits over eight years to subsidize affordable projects. This would reduce general fund revenue and cut into TABOR surplus dollars.

Applies to: Statewide

Status: Pending in the House Appropriations committee

Process tweaks

HB24-1308 would create new rules for how the state Division of Housing handles applications for affordable housing funding programs, among other changes.

Applies to: Statewide

Status: Pending on the House floor

Renters’ rights

Progressive Democrats are especially focused on creating new legal protections for renters and others. They struggled last year to pass some key priorities on this front through the Senate, but have regrouped to try again.

“For cause” evictions

HB24-1098 would force landlords to offer lease extensions in many cases, giving tenants a better chance at renewing their leases. A similar but broader bill died amid Democratic infighting in 2023. Landlords said this policy would prevent them from breaking up with bad tenants, while proponents said it would keep landlords from forcing someone out of housing without a good reason.

Status: Passed by the legislature, signed by the governor April 19.

Tax credit for renters

SB24-146 would provide an income tax credit worth up to $2,000 for renter households who are joint filers, or $1,000 for single filers. However, there are some catches. The credit is non-refundable, so it can’t be paid out as a refund check. Instead, it can only be used to reduce your income tax obligation. And the credit would be smaller for those with higher incomes.

It’s part of a larger tax credit package. Other proposals, including an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit and a state Family Affordability Tax Credit, or child tax credit, would be refundable and offer more benefits to lower-income households.

Status: Passed by the Senate, onto the House.

Habitability of rentals

SB24-94 makes changes to landlords’ obligations to ensure the habitability of rentals. It sets new timelines and standards for how habitability issues should be handled, and it requires landlords to provide alternate housing while certain life, health or safety-affecting issues are addressed. It also sets new legal standards and procedures, including allowing habitability issues to be used as an affirmative defense against eviction.

Status: Passed by both chambers, headed next to the governor.

Limiting rent algorithms

HB24-1057 would limit landlords’ ability to use algorithm-driven digital platforms like RealPage to set rent levels. Reformers say such algorithms allow landlords to collude by indirectly exchanging private information, and making it possible to more aggressive in raising rents. Critics say more data makes the housing market more efficient. The bill would still allow the use of algorithms, but not if they rely on “nonpublic competitor data.”

Also, the Senate added a significant carveout: Landlords could use nonpublic competitor if the algorithm is also made available, in some form, to the public. The idea is that the renter would at least get access to  a tool that estimates rent ranges for the neighborhood.

Status: Passed by both chambers, House now considering Senate’s amendment.

No limits on roommates

HB24-1007 was a priority for both Polis and statehouse progressives. It overturns cities’ “occupancy limits” on how many roommates can share a home. However, local governments can still set limits for causes like fire safety and health. (This would apply to homeowners who want to share their homes, not just renters.)

Status: Signed into law by Gov. Polis.

No price gouging after disasters

HB24-1259 was inspired by what sponsors say were instances of price-gouging after the 2021 Marshall Fire in Boulder County. It says that landlords can’t excessively raise rent for a year after an area is affected by an emergency, as declared by the governor or the president. The limit would be a 10 percent hike, or an amount matching the percentage raise in rent for the previous year, whichever is greater.

Status: Initial approval given by both chambers. The House is considering amendments made by the Senate.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
New home construction on Dec. 28, 2022, in a Louisville neighborhood burned to the ground by the 2021 Marshall fire.

Rights in mobile home parks

HB24-1294 includes numerous changes to how mobile home parks can operate, including requirements that rent is “reasonable, equitable, and consistent for all residents for comparable lots” and that park rules are published in both English and Spanish

Status: Passed the House, pending in the Senate.

Construction defect reform

HB24-1230 aims to grant more legal protections to homeowners, especially for condos, affected by construction defects, including by extending the window for lawsuits from six years to 10 years.

Status: Passed the House, pending in the Senate.

A contrasting bill, SB24-106, is more focused on giving builders protections in those lawsuits. It gives builders the right to remedy legal claims by fixing the problem, among other changes.

Status: Passed the Senate, onto the House