Does Colorado have zoning laws?
In an effort to solve housing shortages in the state, Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation that could bring big changes to Colorado’s zoning system.
Major provisions of the bills include:
• The state’s Department of Local Affairs would draft model housing codes for cities. Local governments would have the ability to fold minimum standards into their existing regulations, but if they don’t, the model code will be placed upon them.
• Property owners would be able to build accessory dwelling units, like carriage houses, or develop “middle housing,” like converting a single home into a duplex, even if the land is zoned for single-family housing.
• Denser building near public transit would be encouraged, allowing for more apartments in urban centers and major traffic corridors.
• Occupancy requirements—for example, that only three non-related people can live in the same unit—would be removed except as required by fire and building codes.
• Parking mandates would be removed in most cases, allowing developers to decide whether to build spaces.
• Regional and statewide housing studies would be conducted every five years, and the information would drive state-level housing policy decisions.
•Local governments would have to commit to a certain amount of state-approved affordability and anti-displacement measures.
Proponents of the legislation say the changes will promote denser development, helping to solve the state’s large housing shortage. A Common Sense Institute analysis found that the state will need between 46,600 and 72,600 new permits each year, through 2025, to close the gap and accommodate new residents. Transit-oriented, multi-family housing is also more sustainable for the environment and can help curb sprawl, they say.
Some local leaders and the Colorado Municipal League (CML), however, have voiced opposition to the proposed reforms, which they say would reduce local control. In a statement, Kevin Bommer, the league’s executive director, called the legislation “a breathtaking power grab.”
“This bill is not at all the ‘Colorado Way,’” Bommer said. “Unlike California or Oregon, Colorado has a rich tradition of local control and constitutional home rule, the latter of which cannot be legislated away.”