Colorado land use bill advances through House committee with some original provisions back in place
Senators would need to approve newest changes or iron them out in conference committee
Colorado Rep. Iman Jodeh speaks about amendments to Senate Bill 23-213 at the Capitol on May 3, 2023. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)
A Colorado House committee voted Tuesday night to bring back some original provisions of a land use reform bill that had previously been stripped of its major points by the Senate.
Members of the House Transportation, Housing and Local Government Committee amended Senate Bill 23-213 to once again require the biggest cities in the state to allow accessory dwelling units by right and approve denser housing along transit corridors. They then passed the bill on a 9-4 party-line vote.
“This is not an easy lift, but we need to do it. The status quo is not working anymore,” bill sponsor Rep. Iman Jodeh, an Aurora Democrat, said at a press conference before Tuesday’s hearing.
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Jodeh is running the bill in the House with Rep. Steven Woodrow, a Denver Democrat. It was sponsored in the Senate by Majority Leader Dominick Moreno, a Commerce City Democrat.
SB-213 was introduced as a sweeping measure to address the state’s housing shortage crisis and would have required cities to allow denser housing, including multiplexes and accessory dwelling units, in residential areas, effectively eliminating single-family zoning in much of the state. It would also have required resort towns and suburbs to enact certain strategies to boost affordable housing stock.
It received immense pushback from local governments who said the proposal usurped local control, and those mandatory upzoning requirements were completely eliminated in the version of the bill the Senate passed last week.
As amended by the Senate, the bill focused instead on a statewide housing analysis and plan.
“The voices advocating for exclusion and scarcity have often been the loudest and most well-resourced, but that just underscores the need for these changes,” Woodrow said, mentioning that while opposition interests could afford lobbyists and take time to testify at committee hearings, many Coloradans who would benefit from increased housing density don’t have the resources or flexibility to come to the Capitol and have their voices heard.
“We’ve drafted these amendments to help push forward these policies we know will have a meaningful impact almost immediately,” he said.
Local leaders not happy
The version of the bill that now heads to the House Appropriations Committee once again allows accessory dwelling units by right in so-called Tier 1 and Tier 2 urban municipalities. There are exemptions for cities that can prove water and sewer limitations.
“Homeowners should have the right to make these improvements, particularly given their affordability and capacity to allow older Coloradans ability to age in place. Your right to do what you want with your property shouldn’t include the ability to control what your neighbor does with hers,” Woodrow said as the committee wrapped up its consideration of the bill close to midnight. “The only thing we are preempting is exclusionary zoning.”
Another approved amendment enables multi-family housing within a half mile of fixed rail stations, requiring the state’s largest cities to zone for an average density of 40 units per acres in 50% of the land in that radius around a station. Cities with rapid bus transit zones would need to zone for an average housing density of 25 units per acre in at least 25% of land within a half mile of stops.
While many of the amendments restored parts of the original bill, one actually watered down the bill’s ban on unit occupancy restrictions. The bill now would exempt from the ban cities that have at least a 25% college student population, such as Boulder.
The amendments approved by the committee on Tuesday upset many local officials, who were pleased by the Senate’s paring back of the bill.
“By the governor’s words and the proposed amendments, you’ve stripped away any good faith efforts to work together now and in the future. Your actions have made your words worthless,” Centennial Mayor Stephanie Piko said.
If the full House passes the current version of the bill, the Senate would need to approve the changes or iron them out in a conference committee before it gets sent to Gov. Jared Polis’ desk. Lawmakers are on a tight timeline — the legislative session ends Monday.
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