Government Affairs Update
January 2020
Barbara Koelzer, Regional Government Affairs Director
[email protected]
303.886.5675

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LOCAL
Longmont
Council to Consider Metro District Policy Change: On December 3 City Council member Polly Christensen tried to get support for an ordinance to prohibit residential metro districts. She didn’t explain why the policy change was needed or urgent. Tim Waters described Christensen’s motion as “ill-advised” and “rash.” Joan Peck suggested a study session as a first step, creating enough support to approve the revised motion 4-3, with Christensen, Rodriguez, Peck and Hidalgo-Fanning voting in favor.

The Council was scheduled to discuss metro districts the following week on December 10, but the discussion was postponed after over 60 minutes of public comments on the topic. Mayor Pro Tem Aren Rodriguez suggested the delay, saying that it would be better to wait until January 7 for a special City Council “pre-session.” Rodriguez argued that such a venue would allow for more discussion without “the constraints of Roberts’ Rules of Order.” He said, “this Council has been fractured since the election. We need to come to consensus as a new Council…”

After prolonged discussion the Council voted 5 to 2 to support Rodriguez’ motion. Polly Christensen voted against the motion, saying it was unfair to the public since people expected the discussion that night. Joan Peck also opposed the motion. Earlier stated she didn’t want to allow public comment on January 7, especially from developers. The details on the location and time of the “pre-session” will not be available until December 13.

Additional Requirements For Riparian Developments: The City Council gave approval to require additional review requirements for development proposals along four river corridors: the St. Vrain, Left Hand Creek. Dry Creek Number 2 and Union Reservoir. Proposals in those areas were already subject to 150-foot setbacks and a variance process but now they will be subject to the new Sustainability Evaluation System approved last month.

The Council also asked staff to draft an ordinance adding four other corridors to the riparian areas requiring additional review: sections of Spring Gulch Number 1 and 2, Lykins Gulch and Dry Creek Number 1. Staff and Council have made it clear that an extensive public outreach process will be undertaken to make sure all relevant property owners have been notified.

STATE
New Transportation Funding Strategies Uncertain: Governor Jared Polis told the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance in November that the region would see benefits from the extra $625 million he hopes the Legislature will budget for the Colorado Department of Transportation in 2020, on top of the $300 million he approved in the current state budget.

In 2017, Senate Bill 267 authorized $1.8 billion in long-term bonds for transportation backed by leases on government buildings. On top of that, the state budget is required to pitch in $50 million a year. Senate Bill 2018-01 put $495 million into roads, bridges and alternative transportation in 2018, and $150 million in 2019.

The Metro Mayors Association is considering regional taxing strategies, effectively giving up on a statewide solution, given recent history. The idea isn’t widely supported yet, but the call gets louder every time a statewide ballot measure fails.

However, that strategy has opponents, too. Fix Colorado Roads, a coalition of business groups, takes a dim view of a piecemeal strategy saying it would “balkanize” the state. Rural areas wouldn’t be able to raise enough funding through that approach.

It remains to be seen whether the Legislature will consider new long-range funding in 2020 or focus on cleaner, greener vehicles and transit.

NATION
New FHA and GSE Loan Limits: As expected, FHA just published its 2020 loan limits. The FHA high-cost limit is the same as the GSE limit – $765,000. The FHA floor (the lowest FHA limit) also rose to $331,760. Nearly every county in the country saw an increase in their loan limits.

The way that loan limits are calculated, all counties within the same Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) benefit from the highest limit in that MSA. Over the last year, the government changed some definitions of MSAs. The result is that 11 counties, who were removed from their nearest MSA, will see decreases in their loan limits, but none of these counties are located in Colorado.

The 2020 loan limits are available here. These limits are effective from January 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020.

Limits for MSAs in Northern Colorado:
Boulder County – $626,750
Fort Collins/Loveland – $437,000
Greeley (Weld County) – $385,250

Carson on Affordability:  Speaking at the first-ever Real Estate Forecast Summit, U.S. Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Ben Carson called affordable housing “one of the real challenges of our time.” Carson said the Trump administration’s White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing is looking at a range of solutions, including the elimination of regulatory barriers—such as zoning restrictions, density restrictions, and wetlands rules—that add to the cost of construction.

Carson said the council is looking at what can be done at the federal level to incentivize change, but private industry, he said, will bring the best answers to the housing inventory and affordability challenges. “Real answers don’t come from the federal government,” he said. “They come from the people with boots on the ground, who are actually the stakeholders who are involved with the issues we are dealing with.”

Rent Control Lawsuit: A group of national housing organizations are lining up in a show of support for the lawsuit by the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA) and seven property owners in New York City, which challenges the constitutionality of the New York Rent Stabilization law (RSL).

The National Apartment Association, the National Association of REALTORS®, the National Multifamily Housing Council, the National Association of Home Builders and the New York State Builders Association are backing the lawsuit, which is a comprehensive argument for why Rent Stabilization and other rent control laws in New York violate the 5th Amendment’s takings clause and the 14th Amendment’s due process clause.

Where previous lawsuits challenging rent control have focused narrowly on specific provisions, this case details how a patchwork of bad laws and their inconsistent implementation has resulted in both a physical taking of property without compensation, and a regulatory taking, in which the property owner no longer has control of their possession.

The suit also makes a clear case that the laws violate Due Process because there is no benefit for low-income renters, units are only obtained through good fortune, and there are no financial requirements on who receives this benefit, which is paid for by property owners.

Vince Malta, President of the National Association of REALTORS®, said his organization is “concerned that the expansion of rent control laws across the country will worsen our nation’s affordable housing crisis by discouraging investment and reducing supply.

“In addition, the expense of complying with rent control laws and regulations inevitably increases the cost of housing to the consumer, while the expense of enforcing rent controls adds to the cost of local government. NAR maintains our belief that America must face its housing shortage head on by building more affordable homes needed to accommodate the nation’s rising population.”

The coalition of New York landlords and building owners filed their federal lawsuit against New York City and a New York State official in July. They are seeking to strike down the state’s rent control laws, including a series of changes approved by the Legislature in June.

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