BY FREDA MIKLIN
As the 2023 session of the Colorado legislature drew to a close on Monday evening, May 8, the sponsor of the governor’s major housing bill, State Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno, announced that the Senate would not take up the latest House-amended version of SB23-213 Land Use, thus it would die.
The bill, which sought to allow middle housing as a use by right in single family neighborhoods and require cities to allow multi-family housing in transit corridors, underwent a major rewrite in the Senate from its original version in the Senate before being sent to the House, where several of the parts that had been excised were added back, though that did not include middle housing in single family neighborhoods. Still, it was too much for the Senate to sort out so late in the session and sponsors gave up.
Locally, State Sen. Jeff Bridges (D-2) had expressed reservations about this bill from the start. State Reps. Meg Froelich (D-3) and David Ortiz (D-38) said little about it publicly, although Ortiz, like State Rep. Ruby Dickson (D-37), who did support it publicly, was a co-sponsor of the bill.
After the legislative session ended, Governor Polis’s press secretary, Conor Cahill, issued a written statement that said, “Governor Polis will continue his fight to better protect the property rights of homeowners and make Colorado more affordable to purchase or rent homes because changing the status quo isn’t easy. He is deeply disappointed that politics and special interests continue to delay delivering real results for aging Colorado seniors who want to downsize, young families who want to live close to their work and the communities where they grew up, and businesses struggling with workplace shortages because of artificially high housing costs. Governor Polis — in partnership with a broad coalition with the courage to take on the status quo — is deeply committed to addressing the higher and higher costs facing hardworking Coloradans across our state and the Governor is more confident than ever that reducing costly barriers to housing will prevail. The Governor remains committed to reducing the cost of housing for rent and purchase to save people money, improving our air quality, reducing traffic, improving water efficiency, and improving the quality of life in Colorado.”
Upon hearing the news that the plan had failed, Greenwood Village Mayor George Lantz told The Villager, “I am pleased to hear this evening that Senate Majority Leader Dominick Moreno has confirmed that SB23-213 is dead. The Senate listened to the thousands of residents and organizations such as the Colorado Municipal League, the Denver Regional Council of Governments, and the Metro Mayors’ Caucus, who all believe local municipalities should have control of their cities.”
GV’s website says that the bill failed, “After legislators were unable to find a compromise between the Senate and House versions of the bill.” It also offers thanks to, “Our local senator, Sen. Jeff Bridges, who listened to his constituents and supported the amended Senate version of the bill, which removed many of the preemptive measures that would have impacted our ability to maintain the character and quality of our neighborhoods.” GV goes on, “Unfortunately, our local representative, Rep. Ruby Dickson, cosponsored SB23-213 and was the prime sponsor for a bill that preempts local authority over residential building permits.”
The Villager reached out to Rep. Dickson to ask her why she supported SB23-213. She told us, “I decided to cosponsor that legislation after much engagement with the bill’s sponsors to make it work well for the people of this area. Housing affordability, homelessness, and land use are some of the most important and pressing issues facing our state— and skyrocketing property tax valuations are one consequence. Last year, I spoke to thousands of residents at the doors, and heard many perspectives from our district on how to address the statewide housing crisis. I took the debate around SB23-213 very seriously, especially after engaging with many hundreds of constituents with a wide range of thoughts on the policy.”
She continued, “I believe that local governments can be an extremely effective tool for solving many of the issues we face in Colorado. Our state has seen unprecedented growth over the past few decades, and we must make sure to balance the concerns of local government with the needs of ordinary Coloradans. Too many people have been priced out of their communities or forced to live far away from where they work. That’s why I ultimately supported a version of SB23-213 which included transit-oriented development, housing needs assessments, and displacement protections— without imposing upzoning on single-family communities. With or without SB23-213, the legislature ran important bills this session to address the housing crisis, but the issue is far from solved.”
Cherry Hills Village’s website said, “Senate Bill 23-213 was introduced at the state level with the intent of addressing housing costs, however the end result of the bill would have allowed duplexes or fourplexes to be built in every part of Cherry Hills Village. This action by the state legislature would have changed the character of Cherry Hills Village, and City Council is opposed to any bill that results in this kind of change and also strips local authority and infringes on home rule control as guaranteed by the state constitution. The city will continue to monitor future bills at the state level to defend local land use control and preserve the City’s unique character.”
Most expect a more pared-down plan for housing to return in the 2024 legislative session which begins in eight short months.