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Rent control bill passes first hurdle in Colorado House

The bill would overturn a decades-old ban that prohibits rent stabilization. If passed, it would let municipalities pass their own rent control measures.

DENVER, Colorado — Due to a long-standing law that was passed in 1981, landlords can raise rent by any amount, but a new bill introduced in the state legislature would change that.

HB 23-1115 passed through committee Wednesday and will next be heard on the House floor. The bill would address rising rent that makes it unattainable for families and individuals to remain in their homes or even in their communities by allowing local municipalities to decide if rent control or limits should be put into place.

"The middle class is being squeezed out of affordable living," said Rose Zapor, who has lived in Federal Heights for more than five years.

She lives in a mobile home park where she said she was promised that her lot rent would go up no more than $35 per year. She recently learned her renewal this coming year would be $75. Since she moved into the mobile home park, her rent has gone up more than $250.

"I don’t want to rent a room to live in a mobile home park for god’s sake," said Zapor, who hopes the bill will pass. "It would give me the ability to plan for my future. You know, I never know from year-to-year how much else I will be able to save."

If the bill passes, for instance, Federal Heights could choose to put rent control into place or not. If the city were to choose to implement rent control, it could look very different than what another surrounding jurisdiction could choose to enact.

"A few greedy corporate landlords are making themselves rich off of working families, and so this bill would allow local municipalities to pass their own rent stabilization policies," said Carmen Medrano, executive director of United for A New Economy – an organization that works with families, veterans and immigrants, as well as others.

"For us, it would mean more stable families, families that are able to stay in their neighborhood," Medrano said. "That means that they're able to set roots and be connected to their community. It means that parents don't have to go to bed worried whether they're going to be able to make rent and have a roof over their heads."

A similar bill was proposed in 2019 and didn't pass due to opposition.

The current bill sees similar opposition. The Colorado Apartment Association released a statement opposing the bill:

Everyone in Colorado is deeply concerned about a shortage of attainable housing throughout the state. While perhaps well-intentioned, allowing cities to enact rent control will only cause housing to cost more and be less available, exacerbating the problem instead of solving it. Rent control has failed everywhere it’s been tried.

Rent Control doesn't work because it has the unintended consequence of removing the financial incentive to create new housing units, to improve existing housing units, and it restricts resident mobility. The result is always less available housing and higher prices.  

Colorado’s prohibition against local governments enacting rent control ordinances for more than 40 years is both a recognition of the damage rent control can do to available housing, and, also, an understanding that one local government’s housing policy can negatively impact neighboring communities. If Denver enacts rent control and builders decrease new housing units in Denver because of it, the cost of housing in all the surrounding municipalities will be driven up because of it. People in Aurora and Westminster will end up paying more for housing because their neighbor artificially reduced supply with the rent control ordinance. 

Colorado needs to focus on policies that encourage the creation of more housing units. Multifamily units are a particularly useful means of dealing with our housing shortage because they are more energy-efficient, require less land, are less expensive and allow people to live closer to where they want to live and therefore drive less. 


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