Deed restriction bill dies in Senate

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— City officials gave a sigh of relief when a bill that would have made it illegal for governments to require deed restrictions died on the Senate floor Monday.

The bill had the potential to undo affordable housing initiatives like the one in the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, which requires one-third of all housing to be affordable if a landowner wishes to subdivide the land into anything smaller than 35-acre home sites.

"It would have probably set us back 20 years," City Manager Paul Hughes said.

Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat, crossed party lines to vote against Senate Bill 154. He was one of three Republican senators to oppose it and spoke out against the bill during Monday's debate. The bill failed 20 to 15 with all of the Senate's 17 Democrats voting against it.

Taylor said it was largely his opposition that defeated the bill.

Taylor, whose district encompasses Eagle, Garfield, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Routt counties, said he heard from many towns with concerns.

The bill was targeted at a Denver affordable housing ordinance, but counties and municipalities from around the state said the bill had unintended and dire consequences for their affordable housing programs.

By prohibiting deed restrictions, the bill would allow speculators to buy affordable housing units and then sell them for huge profits, Taylor said.

"It would have defeated the purpose of employee housing, if you can build it as affordable housing and sell it as affordable housing then flip it without restrictions," Taylor said.

Taylor worked with Sen. Mark Hillman, R-Burlington, who introduced the bill, but the two never came to an agreement.

The bill Hillman originally introduced would have prohibited counties and municipalities from putting deed restrictions or other laws in place that would require homeowners to sell property below its fair market value. The bill would have allowed housing authorities and similar agencies to put deed restrictions on affordable housing they create, but it would not have allowed restrictions on affordable homes built by private developers.

The bill was later rewritten so that affordable housing restrictions, and more importantly deed restrictions, would be allowed for developments in the private sector so long as they were implemented under a voluntary agreement between the developer and the municipality, rather than under a local government mandate.

Taylor said he asked Hillman to define "voluntary" and never got an answer. That led Taylor to vote against it.

"We really needed (Taylor to vote that way)," Hughes said. "He told us already that he was not voting on it in that form and he was true to his word."

The bill was scheduled to be heard in mid-February, but Taylor asked that it be pulled. It was held over for more than a month.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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