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Pair of affordable housing bills pass initial Colorado Senate vote

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Quentin Young

(Colorado Newsline) Colorado senators gave initial approval to two bills meant to boost the creation of accessory dwelling units and spur denser housing development along transit corridors.

The bills are part of a multi-year effort by Democrats in the Legislature to address an affordable housing shortage in the state.

House Bill 24-1152, which has already passed the state House, would require Colorado cities with 1,000 residents or more that are in a metropolitan planning organization to allow ADUs on the same property as a single-family home. The measure would apply to dozens of cities on the Front Range and Grand Junction but exclude most of rural Colorado and Western Slope resort towns.

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An ADU, sometimes called a granny flat, is an independent home that’s often smaller and more affordable than a primary residence on the same property. It can be an extension of or detached from the primary structure, and it can be new construction or a converted section of an existing structure.

ADUs are “a cog in the wheel” of solutions to the state’s affordable housing shortage, said Democratic Senator Kyle Mullica of Thornton late Saturday, as the bill was debated on the floor of the Colorado Senate.

“We know that there’s broad bipartisan support within our communities to have this ability and to make sure that all communities have that ability to build ADUs,” Mullica said.

Some senators, including Democratic members, argued that the bill would sweep away substantial efforts on the part of some Colorado communities that have already adopted local ADU provisions, and they asked that the bill be amended to allow those local rules to remain.

“If you are already doing this, I don’t see the need for why we should come in and tell them to do it a different way,” Democratic Senator Rachel Zenzinger of Arvada said.

The amendment failed. The bill must still win final approval from the Senate. Other sponsors are Democratic Senator Tony Exum of Colorado Springs, Democratic Representative Judy Amabile of Boulder, and Republican Representative Ron Weinberg of Loveland.

Transit-oriented housing

House Bill 24-1313 originally contained forceful tools by which the state would encourage local authorities to allow more housing density near rail and bus lines. By the time the bill was debated on the Senate floor Saturday night it had undergone more than 100 amendments, including revisions that stripped the bill of many of the carrots and sticks meant to nudge cities toward compliance. The measure would apply to jurisdictions located mostly along the Interstate 25 corridor.

Despite a raft of diluting changes to the bill, opposition remained Saturday.

Democratic Senator Julie Gonzales of Denver objected that the number of amendments on the bill, including several amendments on Saturday, made it difficult to understand the full implications of the complex bill in her district.

“I’ve seen firsthand what happens when communities who are often overlooked and not taken into consideration get left out of planning processes, get left out of input,” Gonzales said. “Poor people, Black and Brown people, young people get left out of these conversations. People who speak languages other than English get left out of these conversations.”

The Senate gave preliminary approval to the bill. The House passed the bill in April. It is sponsored by Democratic Senators Faith Winter of Westminster and Chris Hansen of Denver and Representatives Iman Jodeh of Aurora and Steven Woodrow of Denver.

Another housing-related measure, House Bill 24-1304, which would ease minimum parking requirements mostly along the Front Range, cleared the Colorado Senate on Saturday after sponsors narrowed the number of areas where requirements would be prohibited. Critics of such ordinances say that excessive minimum parking requirements inflate costs for higher-density housing developments and exacerbate traffic congestion and vehicle pollution.

Democrats have strong majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. Bills must earn final approval by Wednesday, the last day the Legislature is in session this year.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.