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Opinion Columns

Opinion: Colorado’s legislature is taking on the affordable housing crisis

When session began in January, Speaker KC Becker asked the chamber to tackle the rising cost of housing here in Colorado.

Our constituents are also calling on the legislature to address the affordable housing crisis in our state. Many Coloradans are being driven out of the communities they grew up in while others can barely afford to rent, let alone buy a home.

Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez

A few members of the legislature have worked together to address this issue on many different fronts. So far, the House has passed a Time to Cure Lease Violations bill to keep families in their homes and a Right to Habitability law to ensure people are living is safe, healthy homes.

These two bills are going to ensure families who have been able to get themselves into homes in Colorado can ensure they can remain in their safe homes.

Brianna Titone

We also did our part in addressing the housing crisis by sponsoring HB19-1106. If enacted, this bill concerning the rental application process for prospective tenants will put in place a reasonable rental application fee and require rental companies to give an itemized receipt for the cost.

In addition, the applicant will be given a report to know why they were not offered the apartment. This will increase transparency in the rental process and help eliminate discriminatory reasons for not offering a person housing.

This bill has been introduced by Representatives Jackson and Kennedy for the past two years, but died in the then-Republican-led Senate.

We are working with stakeholders to be sure that we make this process fair. Most housing stakeholders, including the Colorado Apartment Association, Colorado 9to5 and the Colorado Center on Law and Policy support the legislation we’re sponsoring.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

This bill passed in the House and now starts the process all over again in the Senate. This year, we have every intention of seeing this bill through to the end. Many hard-working Coloradans are depending on us.

Renting an apartment has been a costly event for many people. For those that are daunted by the cost of the rent itself, the application process can be just as daunting.

Many people that we’ve spoken to and heard from have stated that application fees, many of which are called “administration fees,” are costing people anywhere from $100 to $200 per person.

We did some quick digging and found that many places will do a background check for as little as $30. So why are the fees so high?

We have also heard that some places are accepting application fees for apartments that either may not be available or collect an excessive amount of applications for a single unit that they have no intentions of filling.

So where does all of this additional money go?

It seems to be a way for some rental companies to profit in a low-supply, high-demand housing economy. And there hasn’t been any legislation that would prevent them for these types of unethical practices.

Colorado’s most vulnerable people are often harmed by these high fees. For many people that are trying desperately to rise out of poverty, the enormous upfront costs of application fees can make it nearly impossible for people who need housing.

When someone is forced to move because the rent is going up, again, they can’t be hampered with thousands of dollars of additional fees to get into a new place.

This is sometimes a factor in why people end up homeless, and we cannot continue to operate in this way moving forward. People shouldn’t be ripped off when looking for such a crucial need such as housing.

We hope that between HB19-1106, our Rental Application Fees bill and the several other bills that our colleagues in the House Democrats have brought forward, we can do our small part to help address the skyrocketing affordable housing crisis.

State Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, D-Denver, represents House District 4. State Rep. Brianna Titone, D-Arvada, represents House District 27.

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