Land use bill must push mountain resort towns to do better on affordable housing
Housing affordability is a big problem across Colorado — but perhaps nowhere more than in our mountain resort communities. And big problems demand big solutions.
Clearly, that’s the thinking behind Senate Bill 23-213, the Land Use bill initially developed by the Polis administration and introduced by state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Moreno that has not landed well in many communities, including the central-mountain resort communities.
Originally weighing in at 106 pages, the bill designed to address our affordable housing crisis through state-imposed zoning and land use regulations has already been amended nearly 20 times in an effort to address concerns by municipalities fearful of the state wading into local planning issues. Unsurprisingly, affordable workforce housing options in mountain resort communities is an issue of particular concern.
Voces Unidas will support this bill so long as mountain resort communities are not exempted from having to improve equitable affordable housing programs, notably for Latino workers.
We certainly support the intention of the bill to address the affordable housing crisis in Colorado, but we believe any housing legislation that includes the mountain resort communities must ensure permanent affordability restrictions on new construction and requirements that buyers and residents of new housing be part of the local workforce. That also means requiring all municipalities in the so-called “rural resort job centers” (places like Aspen, Snowmass, Vail and Avon) to participate in the housing inventory assessment process that remains fundamental to the bill.
While the mountain resort communities we work in insist they know best how to manage local land use, the reality is that high housing costs are forcing people out of their communities and harming those who have historically suffered the most barriers to accessing housing, including Latinos, low-income people, people of color, and people with disabilities. Our 2022 Colorado Latino Policy Agenda polling found that 70% or more of Latinos polled agreed with some of SB23-213’s primary upzoning and density proposals (allowing multiple units to be built on a single-family lot; building up, not out, with multi-story units) in order to help more families buy homes near quality schools, places of employment and public transportation.
We believe there is a place for state involvement that incorporates some of these strategies in the affordability solution in resort communities too. It’s true that the resort real estate market is unique in many ways, however, it’s also evident that not enough is being done in those resort communities to address the housing inequities that continue to compound as more and more workers are forced to live even farther from their jobs. We simply must move beyond the standard of “resort job centers” importing their labor from somewhere else.
We all want to see the best housing and land use bill possible emerge from the legislative session. To Voces Unidas, that includes increasing housing choice and attainability by providing more homes of all shapes and sizes; decreasing the amount that people must drive to get where they need to go; creating additional affordable housing for those with the greatest need; and ensuring that existing residents and local small businesses are not pushed out of their neighborhoods by rising land value and rents.
We recognize the challenges in achieving those goals as well as anyone, particularly in the central mountain communities where we work. But that’s no excuse to let mountain resort communities off the hook. There is still a lot of work to do on SB23-213, but when it comes to equitable affordable housing, we intend to support any bill that pushes the resort communities to do better.