The political outrage over Gov. Polis’ plan for a hostile state takeover of land use in Colorado led to Senate Bill 213 being heavily amended on the Senate floor. The bill as amended still fails the liberty test and fits the definition of statism.
The good news is there’s still time to kill the bill.
Two new “fees” are embedded in SB 213 under the affordability menu. Polis is no stranger to approving taxes masquerading as fees without a vote of the people so we can’t expect him to honor the voter consent requirement in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) at this point.
Local governments are supposed to choose options from the bill’s menu and implement them. The new fees would be on top of the $15 million designated by the bill for administrative costs and the hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds, including TABOR rebates, being diverted to high-density subsidized housing from passage of Proposition 123 in 2022.
The first is a “linkage fee” on new developments. True to course, some elected representatives don’t grasp or consider economics. If a new fee is added on to developments, the properties cost more. How does this make housing more affordable? It doesn’t. Instead, the “fee” would go to more subsidized housing.
Denver implemented such fees in 2020, bringing in nearly $8 million that year to pay for other people’s housing.
The second is a “vacancy fee,” which as the bill describes could be applied when regulating vacant units, short-term rentals, or second homes. This is typical of heavy-handed government tactics. If the carrot doesn’t work, bring out the big stick. If you own property and you aren’t renting it out, pay up for your crime. The proposed fee would again go to more subsidized, government-controlled housing.
Besides the likely illegal “fees” incorporated into the current bill, it still reeks of big government.
The definition of statism is “a political system in which the state has substantial centralized control over social and economic affairs.” Controlling property owners and forcing them to rent out property is plain un-American. Add in the bill’s requirement for inclusionary zoning and goal of transitioning “existing housing stock to regulated affordable housing,” and it’s a truly noxious bill.
The measure also advocates for outright discrimination by directing water resources and transportation taxes to compliant jurisdictions over those which don’t want to add more high-density development. I’m not a Star Trek buff, but the bill makes me think of the Borg whose motto was “Resistance is futile” as they forced unwilling participants to join the collective hive.
Senate Bill 213 still has to make it through the House with just one week left in the session. Sitting back almost guarantees the bill’s passage. I’ve been at this long enough to know that resistance is not futile. It just takes enough people giving 5 minutes (or less) to write or call their state house representative to change the course.
Natalie Menten is a long time political activist from Lakewood, TABOR Foundation Board Director, and a former elected director at the Regional Transportation District (RTD)
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