Colorado passes bill tying transportation to affordable housing

May 13, 2024

A legislative bill in Colorado tying transportation to affordable housing is a step closer to being signed into law.

The Senate last week approved a House proposal requiring metropolitan planning organizations to impose higher density goals in zoning.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is set to sign the bill into law.

House Bill 1313 requires affordable housing to be built adjacent to transit. To be affordable, the housing would be supported by public subsidies, inclusionary zoning ordinances and deed restrictions that restrict or limit maximum rental or sale price. The bill also requires a period when only low- or moderate-income households could qualify. The measure requires housing density in these “transit-oriented” communities at about 40 units per acre.

The measure applies to 31 municipalities that are part of a metropolitan planning organization. MPOs in Colorado include: The Denver Regional Council of Governments, the North Front Range MPO, the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, the Pueblo Area Council of Governments and the Grand Valley MPO.

Municipalities are not required to participate.

Amendments were approved in late April that removed penalties for non-participation. The bill’s original language mandated penalties for non-participation that included a loss of state transportation funding, which for some counties is as much as 50% of the funding they have for road and bridge projects. The state would have also been able to apply for court injunctions to force local governments to participate.

Other state houses that attempted to tether transportation to state funding this year weren’t as fortunate.

In Connecticut, a bill failed that would have incentivized towns across the state to focus on transit-oriented development that prioritized housing which connects to existing bus and train lines. The Senate did not vote on the bill prior to the end of the state’s legislative session late last week.

However, Connecticut passed House Bill 5474, which addresses housing density concerns that include sprawl driven by large lot sizes for housing and lots of single-family housing, short-term rentals and lack of warning about rising rents.

The legislation offers municipalities one-quarter of an 8-30g point for each unit of so-called “middle housing” that they build “as-of-right,” or without a special hearing before the zoning commission. The 8-30g law offers court remedies to developers whose proposals for affordable housing are denied. Towns can earn points toward temporary exemptions from the law by building affordable housing.

Middle housing refers to lighter density developments such as duplexes, triplexes and townhomes. Those developments would not be required to have affordability elements under the legislation.

The bill:

  • Requires towns allow developers to turn abandoned nursing homes into affordable housing without a special zoning hearing. The conversions can only happen if the existing building does not need to be demolished and the developer cannot change the building’s footprint.
  • Mandates that landlords offer tenants at least 45 days of notice ahead of a rent increase. For month-to-month leases, it would require notice the same as the length of the lease. Current law does not have time requirements for notice of rent increases.
  • Allows participants to use the state Department of Housing maximum amount, as is now used, or to consider the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s fair market rent amount, whichever is higher. This could allow people with state housing assistance more options for apartments.
  • Gives towns explicit authority to adopt ordinances about the operating and licensing of short-term rental properties. Initially, municipalities that refuse to abide by the bill’s mandates would have been threatened with losing state transportation funding and the potential for a court injunction to force them to comply.

Photo by Onetwo1

Miles Smith

Miles Smith has more than two decades of communications experience in the public and private sectors, including several years of covering local governments for various daily and weekly print publications. His scope of work includes handling public relations for large private-sector corporations and managing public-facing communications for local governments.

Smith has recently joined the team as a content writer for SPI’s news publications, which include Texas Government Insider, Government Contracting Pipeline and its newest digital product, Government Market News, which launched in September 2023. He graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s in journalism.

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