Colorado Democrats are turning 2023 into the year of housing. But should the state wade into local land decisions?

Lawmakers may limit local land-use directives to promote housing density. Also on the docket: rent control, eviction limitations and transit-oriented development.

Elliott Wenzler
The Colorado Sun
Lalo Torres, of Torres Framing, constructs condos along Blue River Parkway during the summer of 2021 in Silverthorne.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

After decades of tossing around the idea of the state stepping into local land use decisions as a way to combat rising home prices, the Colorado legislature is vowing to take meaningful action on the concept this year. But not without pushback from the people whose power they may overstep. 

Cities and towns are grappling with ways to protect local control as some of their power to make zoning decisions seems to be on the chopping block.

“We do need help from the state, but not through changes to land use regulations,” Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula wrote in a letter to the governor. “What would help us create more units is funds.”

While few pieces of legislation have been introduced so far, Democrats are hinting they will bring bills that could reshape housing policy across the state by dangling incentives to encourage transit-oriented development, making it easier to build accessory dwelling units and removing other barriers  imposed by local governments, such as minimum parking requirements. 

“This is far beyond just a local problem,” Gov. Jared Polis said in his State of the State address last month in which he used the word “housing” more than three dozen times. “We have to break down government barriers, expand private property rights and reduce regulations to actually construct more housing to provide housing options at a lower cost so that all Coloradans can thrive.”

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