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Vote on housing bill delayed again

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Action on Senate Bill 154, a measure affordable-housing advocates fear would hurt local efforts to provide worker housing, was delayed again on Monday.

The bill was scheduled for a vote in the Colorado Senate yesterday, but its sponsor, Sen. Mark Hillman, requested that the measure be laid over until Friday, when it is again scheduled for a vote.

Action on the bill by the full Senate has been postponed several times already. Laying over a bill is a strategy legislators commonly employ when it appears a measure they’ve sponsored doesn’t have sufficient votes to pass.

If the Senate does not act on the bill by the end of the session on May 7, it dies automatically and must begin the review process anew if it is introduced again in the next session.

“I think that the level of opposition in the Senate is such that I don’t think it’s going to pass, period,” said Sam Mamet, associate director of the Colorado Municipal League. The CML has been lobbying for the bill’s defeat on behalf of many of its members, which include every municipality in Pitkin County.

“I think the fact it’s laid over this often tells me his support is waning,” Mamet said.

Hillman, in an e-mail response to questions from The Aspen Times, conceded the measure currently lacks sufficient support to pass, prompting his request yesterday to lay the bill over until Friday.

“It’s a matter of counting votes and negotiating amendments which may gain votes and satisfy some concerns,” he wrote.

The proposed legislation would amend the state’s prohibition on rent controls to prevent local governments from imposing price controls on privately owned housing. Such price caps are a key component of affordable housing programs around the state, including the one in Aspen and Pitkin County.

Hillman previously amended the bill in an attempt to appease opponents, adding new language that would allow government-imposed price caps on housing when private developers voluntarily build it.

The new language, however, left many questions unanswered. Critics wondered whether a developer who builds deed-restricted housing to comply with the requirements of a land-use code is doing so “voluntarily.”

In an e-mail communication to his constituents called Capitol Review, Hillman lashed out at Denver’s new “inclusionary zoning” ordinance, which requires developers to set aside a certain percentage of new homes for affordable housing.

As Hillman described the program, it requires 10 percent of new housing units in Denver to be sold at less than their fair market value. As an alternative, developers may contribute money to Denver’s affordable-housing fund.

“Maybe they should call it ‘extortionary zoning,'” he wrote.

“If a property owner doesn’t have the freedom of choice to accept or refuse Denver’s incentives, then government is engaging in regulatory takings – not actually seizing the property but diminishing its value via regulation,” according to Hillman.

Land-use regulations in Aspen and Pitkin County also require deed-restricted housing as part of new development; in some cases, developers are allowed to pay cash in lieu of constructing the housing.

Hillman is a Republican from Burlington, located on the far eastern plains of Colorado.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]


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