Barbara Koelzer, Regional Government Affairs Director
Council Revises STR Regulations: Boulder’s City Council approved changes to the City’s short-term rental (STR) ordinance. According to staff, there are currently an astounding 891 short-term rental licenses in Boulder with an additional 250 new applications submitted every year. Short-term rentals have been regulated in Boulder since 2015.
The revisions will require landlords to certify they live in the property at least six months of the year on an annual basis. Currently landlords have to undergo the certification process every four years. Owners will also pay a $20 fee to fund the cost of processing and enforcing the annual certification.
The intent of the is to reduce the number of absentee landlords who violate Boulder’s regulations by renting units that are not their primary residence. The annual certification will “regularly and frequently remind owners of the (primary residency) requirement.” The ordinance will require an additional public hearing because the Council decided to reduce the amount of the annual fee from $47 as recommended by staff to $20.
Incentives for Affordable Housing: The Longmont City Council has discussed revising incentives for affordable housing projects twice lately in preparation for considering an incentive ordinance in March. It quickly became clear there was confusion regarding differences between development code incentives, financial incentives and how to align the complicated inclusionary housing ordinance with the development code.
The inclusionary housing ordinance requires developers to offer 12 percent of their units to individuals below the average median income (AMI). This applies to for sale units and rentals. Planner Erin Fosdick explained the current Land Use Code (LUC) offers incentives for affordable housing projects, including greater density and height and reductions in lot size, width and parking space requirements, as well as expedited application review. She said the expedited review is the most popular incentive because it offers developers predictability.
After much discussion, the Council decided to require a 12 percent threshold (of a development’s units) for eligibility for any affordable housing incentives. The Council also agreed unanimously that any project offering “exceptionally affordable” housing (for sale units at 60 percent or less of the area median income (AMI) would be eligible for incentives even if the project didn’t meet the 12 percent threshold requirement. In addition, the Council directed staff to discontinue providing expedited application review as an incentive.
It is encouraging to see that the Council is willing to offer incentives to developers simply for complying with the ordinance. Mayor Bagley asked staff for an update on the impact of the inclusionary housing ordinance. However, Planner Don Burchett said it is too soon to know if the ordinance is discouraging residential developments in Longmont.
COLORADO ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
Legislative Update: At its most recent meeting, CAR’s Legislative Policy Committee (LPC) learned that the Speaker of the House, Boulder’s KC Becker, told members of her party that she will not support any rent control bills this year. CAR lobbyists said she is getting heat from her fellow Democrats regarding bills to increase renters’ rights.
HB-1167 “Remote Notaries Protect Privacy” CAR Position – Support
CAR lobbyists have worked diligently to promote the privacy of consumer data in any transaction using remote notary technology. This is basically CAR’s bill, and the first remote notary bill the LPC has supported. Learn more here: https://www.notarize.com/knowledge-center/what-is-a-remote-notary
HB-1106 “Rental Application Fees” CAR Position – Oppose
The bill states that a landlord may not charge a prospective tenant a rental application fee unless the landlord uses the entire amount of the fee to cover the landlord’s costs in processing the rental application. It has passed third reading in the House of Representatives.
HB-1118 “Time Period to Cure Lease Violation” CAR Position – Neutral
Originally, this bill would have increased the time for a tenant to “cure a violate” for unpaid rent or other conditions of a lease agreement from thee to 14 days. However, it has been modified to exempt single-family homes and CAR modified its position.
In an interesting turn of events, the sponsor had the bill reassigned from Business Affairs & Labor to the House Committee on Transportation & Local Government in a fit of pique. It will be interesting to see what Committee Chair Matt Gray does with a bill that is completely unrelated to transportation when it faces its first hearing.
HB-1170 “Residential Tenants Health And Safety Act” CAR Position: Monitor
This bill is the latest version of the “warranty of habitability” for renters that CAR has opposed in previous iterations. This time CAR is monitoring the bill because it is changing rapidly and there is no need to take a position until the language is finalized. Hopefully, with pressure from CAR and other groups supporting landlord rights, it will end up being palatable.
CAR is preparing for the introduction of a bill to revise the First Time Home Buyer Savings (FHBSA) Accounts legislation it promoted last year. The bill would allow employers to make contributions to an employee’s account and incentivize employers by providing a tax credit. The bill would also increase the maximum annual contribution to a FHBSA to $50,000 a year. Finally, the bill requires the money in a FHBSA account to be used within five years of the account’s creation to avoid penalties. Peetz says this time limit will push employers to contribute.
NAR Pushes for Condo Rules: On Wednesday, January 30, NAR President John Smaby strongly urged U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Carson to release the long-awaited final Federal Housing Administration (FHA) condominium rules. For the past several years, NAR has been advocating for a revision of the condominium rules that would enable more deserving families to become homeowners without harming FHA’s financial stability. As of January 2019, FHA has approved only 9,427 of 52,410 condominium project applications. Given there are approximately 145,000 to 155,000 condominium projects in the U.S., this is an incredible loss of housing options to many prospective homebuyers.
NAR Defends AHPs: Since the new Congress began, a number of Congressional Committees have held health care related hearings focused on issues ranging from pre-existing conditions to short-term health plans. In some of these hearings, the matter of Association Health Plans (AHPs) has come up, which NAR through its work with the Coalition to Protect and Promote AHPs has provided background in defense of AHPs.
AHPs are typically large group plans subject to most of the consumer protections of other group plans under the Affordable Care Act. Thus, by law, AHPs cannot exclude participants based on health status including any pre-existing conditions. In fact, AHPs generally offer more comprehensive health coverage at lower cost than the small group and individual health insurance markets. AHPs are also not the same as short-term health plans, despite constantly being grouped together. Short-term health plans are subject to less regulation than AHPs and thus are often characterized as “skinny” plans with less health benefits, which differ from more comprehensive AHPs. The coalition statements sort out these “myths vs. facts” about AHPs.
NAR continues to advocate for changes to promote and protect AHPs and will continue to provide updates to members seeking more affordable health insurance options.
NAR Leadership Meets with HUD Secretary Ben Carson: Recently NAR President John Smaby and several other members of NAR’s Leadership met with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, Acting Assistant Secretary and Fair Housing Administration (FHA) Commissioner Brian Montgomery to bring attention to several matters of importance to REALTORS®.
President Smaby urged Secretary Carson and Commissioner Montgomery to release the long-awaited FHA condominium rule. REALTORS® support increased flexibility with owner-occupancy and commercial space requirements, as well as more streamlined project re-certification and the allowance of spot loan approval for non-FHA designated condominium projects. The Secretary was understanding of NAR’s stance and recognizes the importance of condominiums as the most viable form of home-ownership for many worthy borrowers.
NAR’s Leadership also discussed the need for HUD guidance on assistance animals for rental property owners, which the Secretary recognized would be helpful. Secretary Carson noted that HUD intends to publish a rule on down-payment assistance which he welcomes NAR’s comment. NAR is an advocate of down-payment assistance programs that are properly managed.
Interior Department Advances Forest Management Plans: The Interior Department has set out a plan for increased forest cuts and other “active management” approaches in federal forests to reduce wildfire risks.
In a secretarial order No. 3372, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke set out a series of deadlines to identify and remove environmental hurdles for forest management projects, identify salvage logging projects and begin other measures to mitigate wildfire risks on public lands.
The details methods of forest management, including mowing, thinning, timber salvage and application of pesticides. The Interior document suggests stepped-up logging in national parks, and it specifically mentions salvage logging in areas affected by wildfires, insect infestation and disease in 2017 and 2018.
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