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Bill that would lift rent control ban voted down in Colorado Senate committee

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Joe Mueller

(The Center Square) – A bill to lift Colorado’s prohibition on local rent control policies was defeated by a 4-3 vote in the Senate Local Government and Housing Committee on Tuesday.

House Bill 23-1115 would have repealed state law prohibiting counties and municipalities from enacting any ordinance or resolution that would control rent on private residential property. 

Sen. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, whose district covers the mountains and plains area of the upper Western Slope, joined three Republicans on the committee in voting to postpone the bill indefinitely.

“I’ve become convinced that rent control, even in a local manner like this, could – and probably would – stifle development, particularly for some of these large multifamily affordable-housing projects that we need,” Roberts said toward the end of an almost three-hour hearing on the bill before casting his vote.

Sen. Robert Rodriguez, D-Denver, and one of the bill’s sponsors, said the legislation was designed to give local governments the ability to create housing solutions.

“The state took it upon (itself) to know what’s best for our communities,” Rodriguez said at the beginning of the hearing. “All this bill is doing is removing that and allowing communities to design what works for their communities. We can have discussions about how it could be done. I have tons of ideas.”

Roberts said the root of the problem can be found in the lack of supply of housing. He mentioned a task force he served on with Sen. Julie Gonzales, D-Denver, and the majority whip, where a nonpartisan analysis found the state lacked 150,000 units. He also said the actions of a municipality could affect surrounding areas.

“That's really important for me in the mountain communities,” Roberts said. “The downstream impacts through a valley could be really harmful to the constituents of mine that are living downstream of where that rent control happens. It might help the individual people who are living in a certain town right now, but it will have a downstream negative impact on new development and prices of current rentals throughout the valley and that's troubling.”

The legislation passed out of the House by a 40-24 vote in February.

“There’s not any data showing that this is going to stifle construction or stifle growth,” Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, D-Longmont, said before the final vote. “It’s just not proven. I didn’t see any data proving that at all in this testimony.”

Paul Kashmann, a member of the Denver City Council, testified in favor of the bill and said the cost of housing is beyond the reach of the city’s workforce.

“We cannot afford to be a city where only the rich can live,” Kashmann said. “... Price gouging is among the many reasons for accelerating rents. There are badly needed tools to confront this within the umbrella of policies we call rent control.”

Anneliese Steel, senior director of public affairs for Colorado Concern, a group of the region’s top business leaders, testified the housing shortage must be solved but the proposed legislation didn’t provide the answer.

“Rent control is a knee-jerk response to high costs that fails to consider future market distortions," Steel said. "This is a well-researched area of housing policy that has largely failed in every jurisdiction has been introduced in.”