Colorado cities would get first right of first refusal when apartment buildings sell in new affordable housing plan |

Colorado cities would get first right of first refusal when apartment buildings sell in new affordable housing plan

Supporters say the plan could start an affordable housing renaissance. Critics say it would have “extreme chilling effects.”

Seth Klamann
Denver Post
A view of downtown Denver is seen from the tenth-floor of an upscale apartment building at 1490 Delgany Street in on July 16, 2014.
Karl Gehring/Denver Post

Colorado cities and counties would have the ability to snap up apartment complexes and convert them to affordable housing, rather than be sold to private bidders, under a new bill set to be introduced in the House in the coming days.

Supporters cast the measure, which is being pushed by Fort Collins Democrat Rep. Andy Boesenecker, as a way for local governments to rebuild public housing, both within the existing market and within standing neighborhoods. If an owner in Denver, for instance, were to accept a $50 million private offer for a 25-unit apartment complex, the city would then have a window to decide whether to step in and exercise their right of first refusal. If they do, they have another window to match the offer and close the deal. Once that’s done, the city would then be required to keep its new units affordable based on local income levels while capping rent increases.

The bill applies to any development with three or more units in rural-resort settings or five or more units in urban areas. There are exemptions, like for the transfer of property to spouses or family, and local governments could waive the right entirely if the private buyer agrees to keep the units affordable. The proposal expands upon a similar bill sponsored successfully last year by Boesenecker involving mobile home parks and is part of a broader push by legislators to increase Colorado’s affordable housing stock.

To finance the deals, governments could braid their own revenues with money controlled at the state level, like Proposition 123 funds or dollars allocated by the legislature in recent years. They could then turn any new properties over to their housing authority or to another “political subdivision,” which Boesenecker said could include school districts. It’s a market-based solution, the lawmaker said, that allows local officials into what are often closed-door negotiations: The prices that local governments would have to match would be set and agreed upon by the private buyer and seller first.


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