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Sen. Dylan Roberts sided with three Republicans to kill a bill that would allow rent control. Why?

The bill wouldn't have created rent control, but it would have allowed local governments to do it.

Sen. Dylan Roberts, Democrat from Avon. (Colorado Senate Democrats/Courtesy)

Democratic Sen. Dylan Roberts bucked his party and sided with three Republicans on Tuesday to vote against a bill that would have lifted Colorado’s decades-old ban on rent control.

The bill — House Bill 1115 — would have removed a restriction Colorado has had preventing counties and local municipalities from putting ordinances in place to limit rent increases. The bill wouldn't have created rent control anywhere, but it would have allowed it if local governments wanted. In an interview on Thursday, Roberts told The Yampa Valley Bugle that he voted against the bill with the communities he represents in mind.

“That bill was very challenging for me,” Roberts said. “My concern with the rent control bill that was before us is that it didn’t include any protections for the likely scenario in our mountain towns where if one town decided to impose rent control, there would be a significant downstream impact down the valley to other towns.”

Roberts, who grew up in Steamboat Springs and currently lives in Avon, explained that his fear would be that if one town were to lock in rents, it will push demand to other towns that don’t, increasing their rent prices to levels that are not sustainable for their workforce.

For example, say Steamboat Springs would institute such an ordinance. Roberts' fear is it could lead to more demand for housing in places like Oak Creek, Hayden and Craig, where housing costs are closer to what some may consider affordable.

Another worry for Roberts is that the bill could disincentivize builders to create more housing at a time when the state is short about 150,000 units.

“Rent control where it has been imposed in other states or cities has show to disincentivize development,” Roberts said. “While we wont build our way totally out of our housing crisis, that is a major part of the solution.”

The legislation was never a sure thing, as even if it were to get the approval of the Roberts-chaired Senate Housing and Local Governments Committee and was passed by the Legislature, Gov. Jared Polis had indicated he may veto the bill, The Colorado Sun Reports.

Polis, who is pushing a housing bill that would make broad changes to local government control of housing development, has shown he believes building housing is the way out of the crisis. That bill — Senate Bill 213 — has since been significantly watered down and the upzoning provisions have largely been removed. Roberts pushed for some of these amendments that would impact the ski towns in his district.

While the bill passed the House, several Democrats sided with Republicans to vote against the measure. Rep. Meghan Lukens, a Democrat from Steamboat Springs, voted for the rent control bill.

A study of San Francisco's rent control policy found significant benefits for those who lived in rent-controlled units, with them being 10% to 20% more likely to live in their unit for 10 years or more.

It also showed owners often renovated rent-controlled units into high-end condos they could live in themselves, which “shifted the city’s housing supply toward less affordable types of housing that likely cater to the tastes of higher-income individuals.”

Roberts said he feared a similar thing would happen in mountain communities if rent control was put in place. Instead of switching them to owner-occupied units, Roberts said he felt they could be converted into short-term rentals.

“That might just be the final reason for a landlord who’s renting to long-term rental to just do short-term rentals instead because they would be able to make a lot more money,” Roberts said. “That certainly won’t help our affordable housing crisis, it will just make it worse.”


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