Feb 4, 2016

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Legislative Update: Feb. 4, 2016

by | Feb 4, 2016

Hope for affordable housing
The dearth of affordable housing continues to vex low- to middle-class households in Colorado. According to one recent news report, hundreds of people lined up for the chance to apply for a new affordable-housing development in Denver ‑- only to be turned away because the crowd grew too large.

Recent statistics show the housing crisis is intensifying. According to the National Housing Conference, over 325,000 Colorado households are paying more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent. Meanwhile, an estimated 165,000 households spend more than half of their monthly income on rent – leaving scant funds for health care, food, childcare and other basic needs.

It would seem that the easy answer to this problem would be building more affordable-housing units. But while a number of developments are under construction, officials say Colorado’s population boom and a decline in federal funding make it difficult to keep up with the demand. Clearly, the problem is so severe and widespread that the free market alone can’t improve matters due to the skyrocketing cost of land, construction and other expenses. Because this issue is critical to the health and well-being of low-income families, CCLP is taking a lead in developing and advocating for legislative solutions.

On Tuesday, Claire Levy, CCLP’s Executive Director, testified in support of Senate Bill 59, which would have lifted the restrictions that prohibit municipalities from requiring developers to construct or provide affordable housing when new development would produce an influx of new workers.

“Safe, affordable housing is the foundation for economic security and a better future,” Claire said during her testimony. “Colorado has done phenomenally well at creating good jobs in the aftermath of the great recession. Those jobs have brought an influx of people. They all need somewhere to live.” Though SB 59 would have given local governments more tools to meet the needs of their residents, the Senate Finance Committee rejected the measure by a vote of 3-2. Opponents cited concerns about interference with the free market and their perception that the bill would have effectively imposed “rent control” on developers.

Other affordable-housing bills awaiting consideration this session include SB 57, which grants the Division of Housing more power to promote the development, safety and maintenance of mobile home parks across the state. CCLP supports the bill, which will be considered by the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Feb. 10. Another measure that CCLP supports, HB 1006, clarifies the availability of a sales tax exemption for housing authorities to decrease the cost of developing affordable-housing units.

Also this session, CCLP will again introduce a bill that would dedicate a portion of the state’s unclaimed property trust fund for five years to increase the availability of affordable housing. Last year, it was estimated that $25 million from the unclaimed property fund would be dedicated to affordable housing if the bill had been signed into law. The funds will support programs that provide rental assistance, promote construction, acquisition and rehabilitation of rental housing and facilitate home ownership for low-income households.

As Colorado’s booming population pushes rents ever higher, CCLP will continue to explore policies that will help low-income Coloradans with the most basic need: finding a place where they can afford to live.

Bill to Watch: HB 1166
In negotiating compensation, some employers may consider a prospective employee’s salary history rather than paying what the job and the employee’s experience are actually worth. While this practice may reduce a company’s personnel costs, it also limits an applicant’s bargaining power and potentially depresses their lifetime earning power if their future income remains tethered to what may have been an underpaying job.

House Bill 1166, sponsored by Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, would prohibit the unfair recruiting practice of seeking information about past salary, benefits and other compensation. CCLP supports the bill.

On the Radar
HB 1100 would let “homeless youth” qualify for in-state tuition at Colorado colleges and universities. CCLP supports the bill.

HB 1167 would require the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to establish a program that identifies Colorado employers who meet certain “family-friendly” criteria. CCLP supports the bill.

SB 114 requires all private employers with more than 10 workers to provide sick leave to their employees accrued at one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. CCLP supports the bill.

Off the Radar
HB 1015, a bill which would have repealed all laws implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACC) contingent on the ACC’s repeal by Congress and the President of the United States, was postponed indefinitely by the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. CCLP opposed the legislation.

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