Colorado is uniquely positioned to capitalize on numerous economic advantages that have lowered our unemployment rate, seen strong growth in several identified sectors and generated more than 70,000 new jobs in 2014, while the forecast for this year continues to trend upward. While economists predict a 2.5 percent growth rate for 2015, we are faced with an immense issue — skyrocketing housing costs. A recent analysis by Zillow showed renters would need to make $35 an hour to stay within the rule of thumb regarding share of housing costs to annual income. Denver is a desirable city for millennials who bring ideas, innovation, creativity and passion to the workplace. Our housing costs and lack of diversity threaten the very fabric of attainable and affordable options.
As a leading statewide business organization, the Colorado Business Roundtable understands how important providing attainable housing is to community building. COBRT will be unabashedly relentless in our support of options that allow our first responders, teachers, and business community to not only work but also live within our cities and communities. We also have many seniors who desire to live near their children and grandkids who need lower-maintenance properties.
Colorado’s construction-defects law passed in 2001 and has undergone several amendments since. Most cite the changes passed in 2003 and 2007 that have caused owner-occupied, multi-family housing to shrink from 23 percent of the marketplace to 3.1 percent in 2014. While we can spend a lot of time looking at what got us to where we are today, we do not prefer to look in the rearview mirror but find creative, bipartisan, pragmatic ways to fix this issue.
Senate Bill 177 is a bipartisan repair or fix in both the House and Senate that has done exactly what needed to happen: stakeholders sitting down and listening to all parties and learning from proposed legislation the past two years. The COBRT is proud to be a part of the Homeowner Opportunity Alliance, a large, diverse coalition of business leaders, trade associations, chambers of commerce and community leaders. The Colorado Business Roundtable strongly feels that homeowner rights and protections will not be weakened or restricted by the passage of SB177.
Senate Bill 177 ensures that construction issues within a condo or townhouse community are not only addressed fairly and quickly but take into account the rights of homeowners and respect the members of the association community. While every homeowner deserves the right to have, in most cases, their biggest investment protected and repaired in the case of an issue, SB177 stops the current practice in which a small number of owners — often a simple majority of a homeowners association board — can enter into legal action without the knowledge or authorization of the majority of homeowners.
There are cases where homeowners have transferred or attempted to refinance their home and been told, much to their surprise, that they cannot because of pending legal action. This is not only egregious but morally wrong, in our view.
According to state Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Commerce City, SB177 differs from previous legislation in that it adds language requiring mandatory mediation and arbitration prior to filing a construction defects claim. This dispute resolution, as a way to repair or cure issues prior to initiating a lawsuit, creates a more favorable market for insurers, who cite the threat of litigation as a primary driver for the high cost of insuring owner-occupied, multi-family housing options. Alternative dispute resolution is a legally enforceable, effective, less costly way and — just as important — a less time-consuming method of resolving disputes.
We want to stress the importance of creating a workable resolution process that is fair to homeowners. One that protects their rights, which fosters conditions that will allow the building of diverse and affordable housing options, and encourages new developments near light rail and transit stations. The Colorado Business Roundtable values the importance of community — one made of not only first-time home buyers and the millennial generation that brings so much creativity and enthusiasm but also seniors, firefighters, law enforcement and great workers in manufacturing, energy, technology and health sciences.
Locally, communities like Lakewood and Parker have passed ordinances to create a local remedy to encourage or spur needed development within the multi-family, owner-occupied space. While we are appreciative of their efforts and successes, this is an area where our elected leaders at the state level need to step up and ensure the passage of SB177. From the House and Senate sponsors to leadership and the rank and file dedicated servant leaders, there is broad-based bipartisan support. Please reach out to your legislator and encourage him or her to support the passage of this important economic and community-building legislation.
Jeff Wasden, a Highlands Ranch resident, is president of the Colorado Business Roundtable. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Previously published by the Highlands Ranch Herald