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Colorado lawmakers introduce bill that would allow cities to implement rent control measures

Posted at 7:33 AM, Jan 25, 2023

DENVER — A bill that would allow for local governments to pass rent stabilization measures was introduced in the Colorado state legislature Monday.

House Bill 23-1115 does away with a section of state law that explicitly prohibits localities from enacting rent control rules. It does not create a statewide rent control ordinance.

The bill’s co-sponsors say this is not a silver bullet to the housing problem but that it could offer faster solutions for renters than the state trying to build its way out of the problem.

“If a city chooses to implement a rent stabilization ordinance, that's immediate relief as opposed to a lot of the building we're talking about 5, 10, 15 years from now. There might be a change in the supply and demand so that there are affordable units, rent stabilization can immediately stabilize people,” said Rep. Javier Mabrey, D-Denver.

However, rent stabilization has had a difficult past in the state legislature. Last year, state lawmakers gutted wording from a bill that would have offered rent control protections statewide to mobile home residents after Governor Jared Polis threatened to veto it.

State lawmakers working on bills to bring down the cost of housing

Meanwhile, a 2019 bill with similar language to the current legislation also failed to garner enough support. Mabrey says the difference this time around is how unaffordable the state has become over the past few years.

“A lot has changed since 2019. We've seen the cost of rent in Colorado go up by more than 20%, outpacing inflation,” Mabrey said. “I think we've heard more and more stories like that over the past three years, four years since 2019, and I think people are ready to look at this through a different lens.”

Bill sponsors say they are also working to have more conversations with the governor’s office about this proposal to see if they can get something passed.

However, the legislation is likely to face steep opposition from housing groups who worry about the effects this will have on unit availability and pricing.

“While perhaps well-intentioned, allowing cities to enact rent control will only cause housing to cost more and be less available, compounding the problem instead of solving it. Rent control has failed everywhere it’s been tried,” said Drew Hamrick, the senior vice president of government affairs for the Colorado Apartment Association in a statement. “Rent Control doesn't work because it has the unintended consequence of removing the financial incentive to create new housing units, to improve existing housing units, and it restricts resident mobility. The result is always less available housing and higher prices.”

The statement went on to say that the legislation could also negatively impact cities because of the policies neighboring communities implement, saying if Denver enacts rent control the cost of housing in neighboring areas could be driven up as a result.

Instead, the association said the creation of more housing units should be the focus.

Mabrey disagrees, though, saying homeowners have 30-year mortgages to offer themselves a sense of stability with costs and renters deserve something like that too. He also insisted that the legislation will not stop apartment owners from earning a profit.

“Rent stabilization does not impact your ability to make a profit. All it says is, you know, moving forward, a community can pass something that maybe limits the increases of rent to inflation. So the profit is already built-in with the unit already when it hits the market. And so, local communities are also going to have to decide how to tailor these policies in a way that best suits their needs,” he said.

The bill has not yet been scheduled for its first committee hearing.