LETTERS – 5-9-24

Senator Jeff Bridges for balance on housing

As your State Senator I’ve spent thousands of hours talking with folks on their doorsteps. It’s clear we want a state filled with the frontier value of opportunity, where young people can earn a good life and raise a family. We want to attract employers offering good-paying jobs with a thriving economy. We want people to be able to live where they work.

It’s also clear we need more housing to stay true to that value of opportunity. Across the state, we’re short about 100,000 homes. Housing costs in Colorado are about 20% above the national average. We’re in the top five for costliest monthly mortgages in the country. Unlike “healthiest state” or “most outdoor access,” that’s not a list we want to top! It’s no surprise that over the last two years I’ve received more emails about housing than anything else.

I know a full-time teacher in Englewood who babysits on the side to afford a room in a shared house, and parents in Greenwood Village whose kids can’t afford to move home to Colorado. That sounds more like San Francisco than Denver, and not what we want here in our state.

At the same time, I hear from people concerned about preserving their quality of life. From families who have worked hard to buy a home in a neighborhood they love. Understandably, they don’t want state legislation taking that away from them.

I believe it’s possible to preserve our existing quality of life while also building more homes where hardworking families can thrive.

Two measures proposed in the state legislature this year didn’t strike that balance, and I voted against a bill eliminating parking requirements and against another bill eliminating occupancy limits in single family homes. We want more housing, but we don’t want parking to get even harder and we don’t think dozens of people should live in the 3-bedroom ranch next door.

Two other bills did balance our shared values—at least they did after I won major amendments ensuring they keep what we love most about our neighborhoods while also creating new housing.

On a bill for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), often called mother-in-law suites or grannie flats, I worked on amendments to allow cities and counties to require:

Parking: ADUs must utilize existing off-street parking spaces.

Neighborhood Fit: ADUs are subject to the same aesthetic standards as other homes in a community.

Owner-occupancy: Homeowners must reside in their primary residence to obtain an ADU permit.

Setbacks: ADUs must adhere to standard city regulations for placement and distance from property lines, which is 20 feet or more in most Greenwood Village neighborhoods.

Supporters of the bill estimate it will result in thousands more new homes every year, and with these amendments they will have a minimal impact on our neighborhoods. This “gentle density” bill passed with bipartisan support because more housing done right complements our communities and our economy.

I also voted for the Transit Oriented Communities bill after making significant changes to ensure this infill development doesn’t compromise our quality of life. With amendments, the bill:

Traffic: Empowers cities to deny developments that significantly increase traffic.

Economic Impact: Allows mixed-use developments to support local tax revenue from retail establishments.

Compliance: Removes the withholding of road repair funds and the state’s explicit power to enforce zoning with injunctions.

Walksheds: Modifies the development area around stations from a half-mile “as the crow flies” to walking distance, ensuring people will use transit in practice and not just on paper.

By opposing the parking and occupancy bills and strategically amending the ADU and transit legislation, I’ve worked to keep what we love most about our neighborhoods while also creating new housing so that Coloradans who work hard to earn a good wage can build the life that attracted all of us to this great state. Thank you to all of those who reached out as we work for a future where all Coloradans have the opportunity to make our state home.

Senator Jeff Bridges