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Housing Policy • April 5, 2010

Targeting rent control Ballot would make Rent Control Unconstitutional

Targeting rent control

Ballot proposal would make rent control unconstitutional

Peter Marcus, DDN Staff Writer

Monday, April 5, 2010

Voters may see a ballot initiative that would make it unconstitutional for government to control rents on private property.

The proposal is awaiting a review and comment hearing set for Friday. Sponsors seek to ban government from controlling rents on private property — whether it be by statute, ordinance, resolution, deed restriction, covenant restriction, building requirement or zoning restriction — no local or state government in Colorado would be allowed to enact any form of rent control.

The proposal flies in the face of a bill by Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Denver, who is seeking to modify a decades-old prohibition on rent control so that municipalities and counties are able to negotiate and enter into agreements with developers, requiring them to develop based on the wishes of local government.

Questions have been raised in the past few years over whether local government is permitted to require developers to set aside units for people in need, such as the homeless, or battered women. The same questions have been raised over requiring percentages of affordable housing as a condition for approving development.

House Bill 1017 aims to clear the confusion. It has made its way through the House and is one vote away from passing the full Senate. 

But the ballot proposal — by Highlands Ranch resident Robert “Jeff” Halpape and Parker resident Duane Halpape — would make bills such as HB 1017 illegal. Neither sponsor returned multiple phone calls by the Denver Daily News seeking comment. 

Kagan, however, not only defended his bill, but also lashed out at the ballot proposal for being too broad and “unnecessary.”

“It’s way broader than necessary — it goes way beyond the prescriptions of the current rent control ban and paints with too broad of a brush,” he said. “It would interfere with the freedom to contract affordable housing and would therefore involve a loss of overall freedom for all Coloradans in planning their affairs.”

Kagan does not believe his measure is about rent control. He says there is nothing about his bill that would legalize rent control in Colorado.

“My bill does not affect existing buildings, cannot be used to coerce anyone into providing affordable housing, and leaves intact the rent control ban,” Kagan said in an op-ed sent to the Denver Daily News

“My bill is a time-tested way to clear a legal bottleneck that has choked off the development of new affordable housing and threatened to let speculators destroy the affordable units we have already built,” he said.

Critics of HB 1017, however, argue that the bill puts the state on a slippery slope towards permitting statewide rent control, in which local governments would be able to control all aspects of how a developer builds their property.

“HB 1017 gives government entities and municipalities the upper hand, an unlevel playing field,” said Nancy Burke, vice president of government affairs for the Colorado Apartment Association. “This bill adversely affects private property rights because if this bill passes, rent controls will be imposed by local governments.”

Sunny Banka, spokeswoman for the Colorado Association of Realtors, echoed similar concerns.

“We are seeing more and more government entities — in the mountains in particular — imposing requirements on developers and owners to agree to rent control or affordable housing requirements as a condition of the developer getting their property approved for a particular use,” said Banka.


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