In the News
Return of land use reform at Colorado Capitol signaled during gathering with Rep. Pettersen
Washington, July 12, 2023
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Housing reform advocates gathered for an event Monday night to tout efforts from Colorado lawmakers at the state and federal level to increase affordable housing access.
U.S. Rep. Brittany Pettersen, a Lakewood Democrat, state Rep. Iman Jodeh, an Aurora Democrat, as well as representatives from YIMBY Denver and Denver New Liberals came together at the Talnua Distillery in Arvada to showcase Pettersen’s introduction of the Yes In My Backyard Act. Jodeh and representatives from the local organizations also talked about their work on a failed land use bill in the recent state legislative session and how they plan to tackle land use next year.
Drew Nesmith, a legislative aide for state Rep. Steve Woodrow, a Denver Democrat, said at the event that Woodrow spoke with Democratic Gov. Jared Polis about approaching land use next year through a legislative package as opposed to one large bill. He also said Woodrow finds the model Montana recently took regarding land use desirable to housing advocates in the Colorado Legislature. Jodeh agreed.
Jodeh said when working on legislation as big as the proposed land use measure, Senate Bill 23-213, coming back the following year to make improvements and fine tune is common practice. She described housing as a “multi-year, multi-session issue.” She and Woodrow were the prime House sponsors on the legislation.
“The reason I joined the bill was because to me, it wasn’t just a housing bill,” Jodeh said. “We took into consideration water, our climate, transportation, smart growth, housing, affordable housing — and all of these things to me meant that it was also a social justice bill.”
The land use bill was one of Polis’ top priorities for the 2023 legislative session, aiming to address Colorado’s housing shortage by effectively removing single-family zoning in many of the state’s cities. It would have required local governments to approve more residential density and encourage more housing along key transit corridors, but it died after legislators failed to vote on it the last day of the session.
Melissa Dworkin, a spokesperson for Polis, said the governor is excited to see that people want to take action now, given rising housing costs.
“Governor Polis remains focused on working with the legislature in the next legislative session to deliver on this work to provide housing for every Colorado budget,” Dworkin said in an email.
‘Best place to live’
Ryan Keeney, president of YIMBY Denver, said he’s optimistic about the prospects of passing housing policy to increase affordable housing at the state and local level.
“This year for the first time ever with the backing of the governor of Colorado, a bill to legalize multi-unit housing statewide was proposed in our state Legislature,” Keeney said. “Although it did not pass and many of us are really disappointed about that … the fact that it was proposed at all is huge progress.”
Tim Supplitt, a lead organizer with Denver New Liberals, said that to decrease barriers to housing construction, outdated zoning and discriminatory land use policies need to be eliminated and permitting processes need to speed up, among other changes.
Pettersen said that while she focused on multiple issues throughout her campaign last year she said housing was the most common issue she heard about from constituents, particularly in rural parts of her district — she represents the 7th District, which includes Denver’s western suburbs and extends into Jefferson, Park, Lake, Chaffee, Teller, Fremont and Custer counties. She said joining the Financial Services Committee in Congress was important to her, as she also gets to serve on the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee.
“We know that Colorado is the best place to live, and our secret is out,” Pettersen said Monday night. “We have one of the strongest economies in the U.S., one of the strongest recoveries — our workforce is growing but our housing supply is not.”
The YIMBY Act — which Pettersen introduced alongside Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer of Washington, Republican Rep. Mike Flood of Nebraska, and Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri — would target discriminatory housing and land use practices and require recipients of a federal housing grant to report on policies that could impact housing affordability.
“In the rural parts of the district, they saw their housing values increase threefold in just a couple of years” Pettersen said. “We’re pushing people out who have grown up in the community, multiple generations who can’t live there anymore.”