Colorado needs more housing now. There is no issue more important for our state. Across the board, our housing shortage is the culprit behind the most intractable challenges we face: increasing rents, unaffordable homes, homelessness, more expensive goods and services, longer commutes, inefficient water use, and poor air quality.
Colorado is at a crossroads, and we have a choice to make. We can continue with the status quo that is driving up costs, displacing people from the communities they love, and suppressing our economy, or we can come together as a state and grow in a smart way that protects our Colorado way of life.
As you may have heard, we are not taking the easy path forward; we are looking to build a sustainable future with vibrant, thriving communities. We’ve crafted a historic, bipartisan plan supported by housing advocates, unions, environmental advocates, business groups and local officials across the state that would legalize the types of homes Coloradans need and can afford in their communities.
Our efforts have not come without opposition. We understand that the status quo benefits certain communities, but we are not ready to give up so easily. The millions of Coloradans who need us to act and the large coalition we’ve assembled to support these policies are demanding we take bold action. For too long, Colorado’s outdated and discriminatory zoning policies have benefitted the few at the expense of many.
To be clear, we are proud of the work of our Senate colleagues and sponsors. They faced fierce opposition from entrenched interests who profit from maintaining the current landscape and won’t acknowledge the threat our affordability crisis poses to Coloradans across the state.
We applaud the Senate for adopting stronger affordability and anti-displacement measures in Senate Bill 23-213, of which we are prime sponsors in the House of Representatives. These improvements put into statute ways communities across the state can meet the diverse housing needs of their residents at all income levels. It also means we have a better foundation for keeping people in their homes. While these are welcome improvements, the exclusionary zoning we set out to end when we introduced the bill unfortunately remains firmly intact.
In the last few days, Coloradans have made their voices heard: Our current trajectory is unsustainable. Coloradans want thoughtful, strategic action to secure our future, where everyone can afford to live here and has access to good paying jobs, clean air, and walkable communities.
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The opportunity before us is greater than it has ever been. We must seize this moment and deliver. That is why we are committed to passing a bill that gets us to where we need to go: to building more housing now.
The proposal we will attempt to pass through the House builds upon the Senate’s work, and legalizes accessory dwelling units and denser housing near transit. It will increase ridership and create positive feedback loops that draw in revenues necessary for our transit agencies to deliver the services our communities need. It will also address parking restrictions, occupancy limits, and financial incentives.
Smarter housing growth will reduce our water and energy demands, decrease travel times for commuters, and improve our air quality by reducing vehicle miles traveled. In cities and states that have enacted similar proposals, rents stayed nearly flat while the rest of the nation saw 30 percent increases.
The benefits of this policy cannot be understated. The risks of inaction are ignored only at our own peril, and the future prosperity of our state is at stake. This is the legislation our communities need, and the time is now to get it done.
Steven Woodrow, of Denver, represents District 2 in the Colorado House of Representatives, and is a prime sponsor of Senate Bill 23-213.
Iman Jodeh, of Aurora, represents District 41 in the Colorado House of Representatives, and is a prime sponsor of Senate Bill 23-213.
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