Right of first refusal housing bill falls to veto from Colorado Gov. Polis

By: - June 6, 2023 8:24 pm

Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis vetoed a bill that would have made it easier for local governments to buy multifamily properties. (Mike Sweeney for Colorado Newsline)

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis vetoed a bill Tuesday night that would have given local governments the right of first refusal to purchase certain multifamily properties for use as affordable housing — another defeat of housing legislation during a year that was supposed to be centered on the topic.

House Bill 23-1190 was aimed at boosting affordable housing stock in the state by making it easier for local governments to take control of existing developments. The right of first refusal would have applied to residential properties built more than 30 years ago with 15 units or more in urban and suburban areas and with five units or more in rural areas.

Local governments would have had seven days to say they were interested in a property before it went on the open market, 30 days to make an offer and 60 days to close the deal.


Those numbers and timeline were amended during the bill’s lifetime.

“We should recognize that the type of purchase by a public entity contemplated in the bill can already occur now on the open market. While I support innovative approaches to our housing crisis, this tool in its current form should not be mandatory and could have larger and unanticipated impacts on the housing market and future real estate transactions in Colorado that increase housing costs for Coloradans,” Polis wrote in his veto letter.

He wrote that the right of first refusal could add cost and time to these real estate transactions and that the legislation includes ambiguous language — such as the notion that offers from local governments would need to be “economically substantially identical” to ones available on the private market — that could create confusion.

The bill’s four Democratic sponsors released a statement criticizing the veto. The sponsors were Rep. Andrew Boesenecker of Fort Collins, Rep. Emily Sirota of Denver, Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis of Longmont and Sen. Faith Winter of Westminster.

“The governor has sided with the interests of private equity, hedge funds and their powerful corporate lobbyists over and against the affordability concerns of people in our state,” they wrote. “It should be alarming to all of us that the governor has failed to usher these proven affordability measures across the finish line.”

Though Democrats, including Polis, pledged to use the most recent legislative session to address the state’s affordable housing shortage, the most significant housing bills failed. That includes a major land use bill, an eviction protection bill and a bill to allow cities to enact rent control.

The bill’s sponsors wrote that they did not expect the veto. They called out the groups campaigning for the bill’s veto, which included Colorado Concern, the Colorado Real Estate Alliance, the Colorado Bankers Association, the Land Title Association of Colorado and the Independent Bankers Association.

“It is alarming that the governor has vetoed HB 23-1190, given the fact that the governor’s office was engaged in helping us count votes on the policy as late as the last week of session,” they wrote.

Before the veto on Tuesday, Adam Burg, the vice president of government affairs for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement that the bill would add “complexity” and “red tape” to real estate transactions. The chamber also argued that it would usurp private property rights.

Polis wrote that he remains “committed to working with the General Assembly, stakeholders, local governments, and other partners on innovative housing solutions that will not lead to increased risk or market manipulation, but rather increased collaboration, less regulation, and more opportunities to create and preserve affordable housing in our State.”

Polis vetoed three other bills on Tuesday. They would have regulated event ticket sales in the state, created a task force to study the cost of enforcing drug laws, and limited the award some plaintiffs in open meeting law violation cases could receive.


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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado.