(March 31) – House Democrats announced the introduction of four House bills, one Senate bill, and an interim committee request that address access to affordable housing and protections for renters and buyers.

The first bill creates a sustainable source of funding to be administered by the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority to create and rehabilitate more housing options, both for rent and for purchase, for middle- and low-income Coloradans. The bill increases the documentary fee for real estate property transactions by one cent per $100 valuation, and is estimated to generate $9 million- $10 million per year. On a $300,000 home, this would total a $30 fee increase and would yield significant benefits across the state.

“This small increase will create a huge impact on our ability to create and sustain options that are affordable for families in Colorado,” said Rep. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, a prime sponsor of HB17-1309. “We’ve needed a sustainable source of funding for so many years, and this bill would be a victory for Colorado families who struggle with housing costs eating up more and more of their paycheck.”

“This bill does something no other affordable housing program does—address options for what I call the ‘missing middle,’” said Rep. Dominique Jackson, D-Aurora, who is sponsoring HB17-1309 with Rep. Winter. “This will benefit working families and individuals such as police officers, teachers, nurses and others who make decent incomes, yet struggle to save enough to buy a home at today’s prices.”

A second bill, HB17-1310, puts practical limits on the application fees that renters face as they search for their next rental home. The bill keeps application fees to the price of what is actually necessary to screen residents—such as credit reports, reference checks or tenant screening reports—and ensures the fee is refunded if the applicant is never screened.

“Renters have to cover so much each time they move—the security deposit, moving costs, first month’s rent, and often multiple apartment applications,” said Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, a prime sponsor of HB17-1310 along with Rep. Jackson. “They shouldn’t have to pay inflated application fees just so that landlords can profit.”

Sponsored by Reps. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora, and Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, HB17-1311 requires developers to notify buyers of newly built homes of the anticipated property tax on the property, taking into account improvements on the property. Currently, a buyer of a newly-built home is given information about property tax obligations based on the unimproved value of the land, leaving many buyers shocked and struggling with costs when the tax assessment on the house is updated down the road.

A fourth bill, HB17-1312, sponsored by Reps. Tony Exum Sr., D-Colorado Springs, and Adrienne Benavidez, D-Adams County, gives renters the right to have a copy of their lease and to receive receipts for cash payment of rent. Without a receipt, tenants facing eviction cannot prove they have paid what the landlord says they owe.

A final bill, SB17-245, sponsored in the House by Rep. Dan Pabon, ensures that Colorado renters are given at least 21 days’ notice of a rent increase or termination of lease if tenants are on anything shorter a than six-month lease. The current requirement is just one week.

Finally, a letter to the Legislative Council sponsored by Speaker Crisanta Duran and Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, formally requests an interim committee to meet throughout this summer and fall to address affordable housing and the prevention of homelessness. The committee would be charged with making legislative recommendations about ways to increase the supply of affordable housing across the state, to support the preservation and repurposing of affordable housing, to help renters and homeowners attain and retain housing, and to help renters avoid eviction and homelessness.

“As the cost of housing—both rental and for purchase—continues to rise, it is essential that we do everything we can to ease that burden,” said Speaker Duran, D-Denver. “These commonsense solutions will increase the accessibility of affordable housing and protect renters and homeowners from outrageous and unexpected additional costs.”

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