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April 24, 2023

Bills to Bolster Firefighting Workforce, Housing Protections for Victims of Natural Disasters Passes

DENVER, CO - The House today passed two bills to bolster the Colorado State Forest Service’s workforce to improve Colorado’s wildfire mitigation efforts, and strengthen minimum housing standards for tenants after a natural disaster. SB23-005 passed by a vote of 59 to 5 and HB23-1254 passed by a vote of 46 to 18.

“Colorado’s made important progress when it comes to wildfire mitigation, but we need to invest in our state’s forestry workforce to keep our communities safe,” said Rep. Marc Snyder, D-Manitou Springs, sponsor of SB23-005. “The forest service works hard to maintain healthy, more resilient forests, removing excess brush and dead trees among other on-the-ground tactics. This legislation streamlines workforce development and recruitment within the state forest service so we can better mitigate the effects of dangerous wildfires.”

SB23-005, sponsored by Representative Snyder and Minority Leader Lynch, would improve Colorado’s forestry workforce by directing the Colorado State Forest Service to develop educational materials on career opportunities in the industry for students in high school. It also creates a workforce development program within the State Forest Service to increase internship opportunities within the timber, forest health, and wildfire mitigation sectors.

The bipartisan bill will bolster the state’s wildfire mitigation capacity development fund to create and expand forestry programs specifically at Colorado Mountain College, as well as community colleges, technical colleges, area colleges, and public institutions of higher education in order to increase the state’s forestry workforce. SB23-005 would also work to increase and recruit the number of qualified educators at these institutions to deliver a wildland fire prevention and mitigation course or program.

“After the Marshall Fire devastated my community, many renters and landlords found that there were no objective health and safety standards that allowed them to know that their home was returned to a healthy and safe condition after a natural disaster,” said Rep. Kyle Brown, D-Louisville, sponsor of HB23-1254. “This bill creates standards for rental property conditions after a disaster and encourages collaboration and communication between renters and landlords to ensure that the property won’t cause long-term health impacts due to nearby environmental hazards.”

“The Marshall Fire displaced many Coloradans and when they were unable to find anything available that was in their budget, many felt pressured to return to the damaged rental property just to have a roof over their head,” said Rep. Javier Mabrey, D-Denver, sponsor of HB23-1254. “No one should feel cornered into living in housing that can cause negative short or long-term health effects, which is why we brought this legislation to give both landlords and renters the tools to repair their property to a safe living condition. With this bill, we’re streamlining and clarifying the Warranty of Habitability statute to protect renters and help landlords know where the goal post is when it comes to remediating their property.”

Colorado’s “Warranty of Habitability” law requires a landlord to maintain their property to a standard that is considered safe and fit for habitation. A report conducted after the Marshall Fire called for the General Assembly to pass legislation to increase the standards to protect Colorado renters from unsafe living conditions. HB23-1254 would bolster  renter protections in the state’s warranty of habitability by adding lack of compliance with certain standards following an environmental public health event to the list of conditions that make a property uninhabitable. It would also add additional protections for members of a vulnerable population, including allowing such a tenant to terminate their lease if certain conditions are met. 

The bill would also prohibit a landlord from retaliating against a renter that makes a good faith complaint about the living conditions.

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