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Longmont favors allowing local governments to enact rent control

Mayor Joan Peck testifies in support of repealing a state law that prevents municipalities from restricting rent increases
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Longmont is supporting the repeal of a state law that prevents local governments from enacting rent control.

House Bill 23-1115 is one of several bills Longmont City Council enacted positions on at Tuesday’s meeting. The bill would repeal statutory provisions in place since 1981 prohibiting counties and municipalities from enacting local laws to control rent in private housing — it would not enact any rent controls directly.

The bill is an attempt to allow for more affordable housing. While Longmont City Council members did not state whether they would pursue rent control if the option were available, the bill provides an option to consider doing so.

The Transportation, Housing and Local Government Committee held an eight hour hearing on the bill Wednesday at the State Capitol. Longmont Mayor Joan Peck was one of more than 160 to sign up to testify.

Peck highlighted the city's efforts to build many affordable and attainable units, which she believes still won’t be enough to keep Longmont affordable.

“It’s not possible to build these units fast enough to outgrow the rent increases,” she said. “Longmont, like many other municipalities, is suffering from an unprecedented number of residents unable to live and work in our community.”

She pointed to the first responders who can no longer live in Longmont, and the teachers and medical professionals who have left because of rent increases. The mayor also spoke to the local businesses that cannot find employees.

Longmont rents are up by nearly 20% since the start of the pandemic, according to Apartment List, with more than a third of residents in the city living in housing they do not own.

“Municipalities should be able to put the brakes on rent when they become so excessive that they affect the function of our economics and the stability of our residents,” Peck testified. “If Colorado is to have a viable workforce on all income levels, we must pass this bill.”

The proposal moved forward with some amendments, namely to address the concerns from landlords and developers who feared the bill would discourage new housing and prevent building upgrades. The amendment sets a floor that rents must be able to increase, 3% higher than the rate of inflation per the Consumer Price Index and would not apply to buildings less than 15 years old.

The amended bill moved forward with an 8-5 vote along party lines, though Democrat Rep. Alex Valdez also opposed the bill. The bill will go to the Committee of the Whole next.

Before HB 23-1115 could become law, it would need to pass through the House and Senate — both controlled by Democrats — before getting the governor’s signature. Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, has previously expressed skepticism of rent control and, last year, threatened to veto a bill that wanted to cap rents at mobile home parks.

Other housing-related bills the council unanimously supported on Tuesday included SB23-001, which would encourage affordable workforce housing on state-owned land. While there is no state-owned land in Longmont, the city approaches housing as a regional issue and believes this would further support their work on housing.

Another bill council supports is SB23-035, which would expand the power of the state’s Middle Income Housing Authority to enter into public-private partnerships and add clarifications to help the development of middle income rental housing.