Colorado lawmakers consider allowing rent control

DENVER – State lawmakers are considering repealing a law prohibiting rent control. The move could pave the way for cities across the state to set limits on how much landlords can charge tenants.

It is a controversial proposal that could make Denver more like San Francisco or New York City.

The average rent for an 850 sq. ft. apartment in Denver is $1,602, according to RENTCafé.

Both sides on the rent control debate agree there is an affordable housing crisis. The question is: How do policymakers solve it? The Democratically controlled state legislature is eyeing rent control as a solution.

“Colorado has some of the weakest rent protections and tenant protections in the country," said Sen. Julie Gonzales.

Gonzales, a Democrat representing part of Denver, is sponsoring the legislation. She says it’s time to get the rental market under control. She’s facing strong opposition.

“Rent control is literally the textbook example of bad economic policy," said Harvard Extension School instructor Teo Nicolais.

Nicolais is a member of the Colorado Apartment Association. He warns rent control will have unintended consequences.

“Rent control reduces supply of rental housing and drives up rents for uncontrolled units," he said.

For example, Nicolais says if Denver starts controlling rent, more apartment development will move into the cities without rent control, slowing progress in Denver proper and driving up rents in the suburbs.

But Gonzales said her bill will pave the way for each city and county to determine what’s right for local residents.

“We understand and recognize that the solution for Aurora might be different than the solution for Aspen," she said.

Nicolais is promoting a holistic approach that doesn’t include rent control. He’s proposing building more apartments to build up supply and drive down prices. Landlords are also calling for more public/private partnerships to create more affordable housing.

Gonzales says landlord lobbyists have been putting up a big fight against the bill.

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