The “More Housing Now” bill sent to the Colorado Senate last week is a statewide zoning reform for housing with a specific section for rural resort municipalities.
The bill was proposed by Gov. Jared Polis to address strategic growth on a statewide and regional level, but it does not aim to encourage actual growth, said Nathan Landquist, the land use planner/analyst with the Colorado Department of Transportation.
What the bill would do is lift restrictions on accessory dwelling units and middle housing like duplexes and triplexes, along with removing square footage and occupancy requirements.
It also would require housing needs assessments and strategic growth planning, including water conservation strategies, along with encouraging focused growth along major transportation corridors.
For urban municipalities, the guidelines would be more strict, but for resort communities many of these guidelines would be flexible.
Middle housing, development along key corridors and removing occupancy and square footage requirements are all listed as areas given “additional flexibility.”
Healthier Colorado is a nonprofit organization that recently created a statewide poll to see where state residents stood on a statewide housing initiative.
“It doesn’t require any type of homes specifically to be built and it doesn’t get rid of so-called single-family zoning at all,” said Kyle Piccola, Healthier Colorado’s senior director of communications.
Some local leaders have expressed concern, like Republican state Sen. Perry Will of New Castle, who said he was not comfortable with the loss of local government control. But he said he has not made a decision on it yet.
“We need affordable housing, and we need kind of a statewide solution to that because of the housing shortage as well as the affordability crisis in this realm, but the land use and taking away the local control, that’s concerning,” Will said.
Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky shared similar concerns about a potential loss of local control when speaking on a panel during the recent Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley regional housing summit in Aspen.
Housing plans and needs assessments
The bill proposes requiring state and local governments to create a housing needs assessment. This would include the amount of housing needed in the region for different income levels.
The 2019 Greater Roaring Fork Regional Housing Study, conducted through regional collaboration, covers a lot of these topics.
They also would be asked to create housing targets combining zoning reform, affordable housing programs, infrastructure investments, economic and financial tools, anti-displacement and more.
This has already been common practice in Summit and Eagle counties, and recently in Glenwood Springs.
Allowing accessory dwelling units
This part of the bill would lift zoning codes that restrict ADUs and prevent homeowner associations (HOAs) and planned unit developments (PUDs) from blocking ADUs.
Municipalities would be given the option to choose a local flexible code that would need to follow minimum state standards defined in the bill, or they could choose the state’s model code, which would be developed over the next year through a public process.
The bill would allow cities like Glenwood Springs, Aspen and Vail to limit the number of ADUs used for short-term rentals to create more housing opportunities. Many mountain resort municipalities have already restricted short-term rentals, including Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Steamboat Springs, Aspen and Summit County.
Glenwood Springs created a 250-foot buffer zone for STRs with an interactive map, which included ADUs.
This would affect Glenwood Springs’ ADU code by removing the requirement for one off-street parking space for the unit. It could shorten the permit processing time, as well.
Allowing middle housing
Although resort municipalities would be given more flexibility with allowing middle housing, the bill aims to allow middle housing in areas where it would typically be restricted.
Specifically for rural resort municipalities, this would be handled as a regional planning process to determine the most appropriate places for additional middle housing.
It also would loosen restrictions on prefabricated building materials and modular homes to make building homes more efficient and cost effective, Piccola said.
Development along key corridors
This would encourage density development near major transportation corridors like bus transit stations and commercial corridors. It also would require some form of inclusionary housing standard and lift the requirements on parking spaces per housing unit.
The idea would be to encourage apartment complexes and mixed-use development near transit stations, with lower parking requirements. Ideally, if people are next to a transit line, they will not need to own a car.
This area was given additional flexibility for resort communities because of the higher necessity to own a vehicle in the more rural Western Slope.
This bill would remove residential occupancy requirements for non-familiar households, and it would also restrict square-foot requirements, preventing cities from requiring minimum home sizes to allow the development of smaller homes.
For example, in Glenwood Springs there are no minimum square-foot requirements on houses, though there are minimum square foot lots and zoning districts that range from rural residential to high-density. This allows a transition from high density central commercial areas to transition and preserves rural areas.
According to local zoning language, Glenwood would not be affected, but maintaining wilderness land and rural land would be acknowledged.
The bill would take steps to rein in sprawl by directing the state to develop “Strategic Growth Objectives” to better integrate transportation, land use and water planning, and align state funding with affordable housing and climate-friendly land use, according to the bill.
The bill would require municipalities to create strategic growth objectives to focus growth in more urban areas near jobs and transportation, to reduce traffic, pollution and wasteful water practices.
This would also require municipalities to add water conservation strategies as part of comprehensive planning. Local governments would also be required to conduct water loss audits to identify opportunities for water conservation and efficiency.
The bill would set aside $15 million for state and local planning assistance to complete local housing plans.
By:| The Aspen Times \ April 3, 2023