The 2023 Colorado State Legislative Session was a big year for affordable housing. Hailed by many legislators as “the year of housing policy”, 2023 saw the introduction of over 20 bills that directly or indirectly addressed housing. The combined impact of bills that passed this session will result in 100s of millions in affordable housing funding, new tools local governments can use to preserve affordable housing, new affordable homeownership development incentives, and more guardrails to preserve tenant rights. However, the passage of these bills was hard-won, and a number of bills failed on the floor.
Throughout the session, NDC and its partners advocated for policies that maximized resources and protections for vulnerable households, programs that streamlined the delivery of those resources to affordable housing organizations and the people they serve, and land use regulations that would tip the scales towards equity in the increasingly exclusionary development landscape of our state.
- Secured more affordable housing preservation tools
- Shaped Proposition 123 into workable programs
- Made it illegal for municipalities to pass exclusionary anti-growth policies
- Secured more incentives for homeownership
- Largely secured the prioritization of low-income households for affordable housing programs by placing guardrails around flexible income targeting
Priorities we will continue to work on
- Secure a statewide affordable housing needs assessment
- Secure state funding levels sufficient to address state housing needs
- Improve efficiencies in existing state programs to more swiftly create affordable housing
- Secure land use reforms that ban exclusionary zoning while protecting displacement-vulnerable communities
- Secure further renter protections to fight eviction and displacement
Two bills in particular – the Land Use bill and the Proposition 123 Implementation bill – were hotly debated and set the stage for key disagreements that led to both partisan and nonpartisan splits in the House and Senate. To understand what debates, themes, and priorities which characterized this session and resulted in which bills passed and which failed, please see the general breakdown of these themes below. For those searching for a simple breakdown of what key housing bills did or didn’t pass that NDC worked on or tracked this session, please find a detailed table in a separate post.
- The fight to ensure housing funds are prioritized for low-income households will continue to be an important struggle in future years
- Rural, Resort, and Front Range perspectives will continue to characterize debates on what income levels affordable housing programs should target.
- Land use reform legislation will be back in some form next year. Arguably, having a single bill with so many components over its 100+ pages of text was part of its downfall–next session may see the same policies divided up among multiple bills.
THEMATIC BREAKDOWN OF THE 2023 COLORADO LEGISLATIVE SESSION
The complexity of the differing priorities and goals of different actors during the session defy easy categorization. However, there were also a number of clear tensions that developed over the session. To understand why some bills did or didn’t pass, it may it may be useful to think of this session through the following four lenses:
1) State vs Local Control – This was a common debate surrounding Land Use Reform (SB213) and Growth Cap Restrictions (HB1255). Proponents of local control in particular tended to side against the Land Use Reform and Growth Cap Restrictions bills. Some saw the state standardization of housing incentives and policies as no different than the state standardization of infrastructure and sustainability measures, and thus, an obvious component of the State’s obligation to ensure the health and safety of Coloradans. Others opined that such a rationale was “a bridge too far”– arguing instead that local governments needed to make their own decisions about affordable housing policy. Ultimately pro local-control voices defeated the Land Use Reform bill and pro state-control voices passed the Growth Cap Restrictions. Arguably the Right of First Refusal and Rent Control bills were Local Control initiatives–but the debates surrounding them tended to involve Theme #4 below.
2) Landlord vs Renter Power – This tension was evident in debates surrounding the Rent Control (HB1115), Pet Ownership (HB1068), Just Cause Evictions (HB1171), Prohibited Provisions in Rental Agreements (HB1095), and Protections For Residential Tenants (SB184) bills. However, with the marked exception of the Rent Control Bill and Just Cause Evictions, most bills involving renter rights passed this session–perhaps signaling an increasing appetite for renter protections.
3) Low-Income vs Middle Income Focus – This tension characterized debates about any bills that regulated affordable housing funding or planning, namely, the Proposition 123 Implementation (HB1304) bill and the Land Use Reform (SB213) bill. While people on both sides of this debate agreed that CO is facing a housing crisis, they differed on whether to focus current efforts on Middle Income or Low Income households. Rural Resort communities in particular advocated to allow funds to serve incomes far above 120% of the median income. Ultimately, most legislation ended up taking a middle route–allowing Resort Communities to utilize flexible affordability standards so they could serve higher AMIs, but requiring that those communities conduct housing needs assessments to provide evidence for needs at those income levels.
4) Market Agility vs Government Intervention – This tension characterized the debate around the Right of First Refusal (HB1190) and Rent Control (HB1115) bills. Proponents of market freedom felt that, as originally written, these bills would both backfire and result in poor building conditions and/or a suppression of the market’s ability to increase housing supply. Proponents of government intervention felt that, since affordable housing isn’t created naturally, it represents a clear market failure that requires intervention if we are ever to change the status quo. Despite significant concessions, Rent Control was ultimately defeated; and after significant modifications and limitations to the bill’s scope, Right of First Refusal ultimately passed.
KEY AFFORDABLE HOUSING BILLS TRACKED BY NDC
- Expansion of State Funding for Affordable Housing
- HB23-1304 – Proposition 123 Affordable Housing Programs – Passed
- Expansion of Municipal Powers to Support Affordable Housing
- HB23-1255 – Regulating Local Housing Growth Restrictions – Passed
- HB23-1190 – Concerning a Right of First Refusal to Purchase Qualifying Multi-Family Residential Property by a Local Public Entity – Passed
- HB23-1115 – Repeal Prohibition Local Residential Rent Control – Failed
- Use or Expansion of State Powers to Support Affordable Housing
- SB23-213 – Land Use – Failed
- HB23-1184 – Low Income Housing Property Tax Exemptions – Passed
- HB23-1189 – Employer Assistance for Home Purchase Tax Credit – Passed
- HB23-1255 – Regulating Local Housing Growth Restrictions – Passed
- Renter Protections
- HB23-1095 – Prohibited Provisions In Rental Agreements – Passed
- HB23-1120 – Eviction Protections for Residential Tenants – Passed
- SB23-184 – Protections For Residential Tenants – Passed
- HB23-1099 – Portable Screening Report For Residential Leases – Passed
- Indirect Housing Bills
- HB23-1068 – Pet Ownership in Housing – Passed