No Occupancy Moratorium: At the September 15 Council meeting Rachel Friend and Aaron Brockett advocated for a resolution to allow households to exceed current occupancy limits in Boulder until May 31. Friend reminded the Council that in July Governor Polis had asked cities to temporarily suspend occupancy limits during the COVID pandemic. She referenced an email the Governor sent to the Council encouraging them to support a short-term moratorium in Boulder.
“It’s just for a few months,” said Aaron Brockett. “It’s a commonsense step for protecting safe housing.” Mark Wallach said his concern was that this could allow “profiteer landlords” to benefit. There was little discussion before the Council voted although it was clear there was tension regarding the measure and the issue of occupancy limits in general. The measure failed on a 4-4 vote (Friend, Brockett, Swetlik and Joseph voted in support) with Mirabai Nagle absent. A broader discussion on occupancy limits was then scheduled for an October study session.
Fee Reductions for Affordable Housing: The Broomfield City Council approved a resolution on September 8 that reduces building and development fees for affordable housing developments. Building, electrical, mechanical and plumbing fees, as well as plan check, use tax and Service Expansion (SEF) fees will be reduced 50 percent for developments meeting Broomfield’s criteria. Broomfield defines affordable as for-sale units for households at 80 percent or below AMI, that are deed-restricted for 30 years or rental units for households at 60 percent of AMI covenant-restricted for 40 years as affordable. The fee reductions can save developers thousands of dollars per unit.
Note: Local governments routinely offer fee waivers or reductions to incentivize affordable housing. However, growth is supposed to “pay its own way.” This means governments have to devise a way to make up the difference if affordable housing projects are charged less than free-market projects for development and permit fees in order to balance their budgets.
Windy Gap Allotment Approved: The City Council unanimously approved Loveland’s allotment contract for the Windy Gap Firming Project (WGFP). The allotment contract is a key step in formalizing the City’s participation in WGFP; planning for the project began in 2002 and allows for additional storage of Colorado-Big Thompson water that the City already owns.
The allotment contract is a perpetual agreement that commits the Cindy to providing annual funding for the project. Loveland’s share of the $600 mill cost is approximately $66.6 million. The City will have 10,000 acre-feet of water storage (11 percent) of Chimney Hollow Reservoir, west of Carter Lake.
Windy Gap has already received approval from the federal government. Construction has been delayed because of a lawsuit by Save the Colorado, led by Gary Wockner, infamous in Northern Colorado as the leader of Save the Poudre, one of the environmental groups opposing the NISP/Glade Reservoir project.
Other WGFP participants include Broomfield, Longmont, Greeley, Erie and the Little Thompson Water District, among others. On a historical note, Loveland began buying water rights in 1887.
County Rewriting Subdivision Regulations: Weld County planning staff have been rewriting Chapter 24 of the Weld County Code at the request of the County Commissioners. Michael Hall, a planner with the County, said recorded exemptions have led to abuse by what he described as “land speculators.” 95 percent of the rural land in the County is zoned for agriculture, and the County Commissioners want to respect the importance of agriculture in Weld’s economy and ensure ag property remains in production.
There have been a number of problems in addition to the abuses proliferated by speculators that led up to the changes. The proliferation of recorded exemptions has also led to easement disputes and multiple driveways with access onto county roads creating traffic hazards. Water has also been an issue with unlawful use of wells and the depletion of ground water. As is too often the case, new residents used to urban environments complain about the sights and smells that result from agriculture and ranching.
In order to assist families with a genuine need, the County is creating a new “Family Farm Division” to allow a one-time land division to create a legal lot for family members or employees on an active farm or ranch that is at least 70 acres. This will replace the recorded exemption option.
Property owners will still be able to divide an unplatted property into 35-acre acres without county approval. Along with the subdivision changes, Commissioners will consider a proposed minimum lot size in the agricultural zone of 35 acres unless the lot was created prior to 1961. The County Commissioners will begin a formal review of these regulations on September 28.
Council Says No to Short-Term Rentals: Short-term rentals (STRs) are rapidly become more popular across the country and in Colorado. The City of Greeley hired a contractor to determine how many short-term rentals are currently in operation. The consultant found 88 STRs within city limits as of December 2019. The City’s Development Code does not currently address short-term rentals and staff asserted this meant that current STRs are not allowed.
Staff cited neighborhood impacts and influences on the overall housing supply as other reasons for regulating STRs. Greeley’s Housing Task Force supported the drafted by staff that would’ve allowed most mom and pop STRs in all zones with a maximum stay of 30 nights. Operators would’ve been required to provide a local contact person to respond to complaints.
Kristin Zasada said she thought the ordinance was “too much regulation.” Brett Payton argued that the fact that the current code doesn’t address short-term rentals doesn’t mean they are prohibited. “I remain a hard no on this, he said.” Ed Clark suggested that the City should “work on nuisance properties. We don’t need to look for something more to manage. I don’t think it’s a problem. I’m a no.” Tommy Butler was the only councilor to support the ordinance, saying only that he felt the 30-day limit on stays was too short. After a 6-1 vote against the ordinance, Mayor Gates said to staff, “Don’t think we don’t appreciate your work. I just don’t think this has accomplished what I wanted.”
Council Approves Cache Metro Districts: The City Council approved a service plan for eight interrelated metro districts on September 15 with Councilor Tommy Butler opposed. The property is located north of US 34 Business (10th Street), east of 95th Avenue, west of 83rd and south of CR 62. It’s the largest metro district project ever approved by the City (and may be the largest in Northern Colorado.)
Eventually, The Cache will encompass 1,050 acres, including 3,700 residential units, 30,000 SF of commercial space and 10,000,0000 SF of parks, recreation and open space. The residential component will include low, medium and high-density residential units with everything from affordable to executive homes, said project consultant Todd Johnson. The specifics will be further detailed during the review of The Cache’s development plan, which is separate from the hearing on the metro districts service plan.
The service plan caps the maximum mill levy future homeowners will pay at 70 mills for the 40-year life of the districts. According to the developer, the cost of the parcel’s infrastructure alone is over $198 million. Public improvements to be provided by the district include transportation (streets, traffic control, snow removal, etc.), water (water rights, storage, transmission and distribution, meters, etc.) storm and sewer, and amenities such as parks, recreation facilities, bike and pedestrian paths, and playgrounds. The developers, Ed Orr and Sarah Woodland, hope to begin construction in 2021 with phased development through 2040.
Tommy Butler explained his sole vote in saying without knowing the project would address Greeley’s affordable housing needs, he could not support the project. Responding to multiple questions from other councilors, Johnson said the developers hope to set the mills at lower than the 70-mill maximum set by the City of Greeley, but they need flexibility not knowing the cost of all the improvements at this time and future market conditions.
Note: The City requires a written disclosure statement that accompanies the sale of a property within a metro district and mandates “early written and recorded notice of the total tax burden” as well as the submission of an annual report to the City in an effort to ensure future residents are protected.
Blue Book Available Now: Eleven state propositions and amendments will be considered by Colorado voters for the November 3 general election. The 2020 State Ballot Information Booklet, otherwise known as the “blue book” is available now. Drafted by the General Assembly’s non-partisan Legislative Council, it includes information on all these measures with arguments for and against each one. Download it here: http://leg.colorado.gov/publications/2020-blue-book-english
NAR Comments on Qualified Mortgage Rule Change: NAR responded to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) outlining REALTORS®’ position in response to the CFPB’s proposed replacement to the market-wide QM rule.
The QM patch, which provides all loans eligible for GSE-backing the QM status and legal protections, is set to expire in January. When that happens, all formerly QM patch loans would need to comply with the more stringent, market-wide definition which has a firm 43 percent cap on the back-end DTI and other verification requirements.
If that happens, a significant portion of the market would likely shift to the FHA, paying more, or out of the market all together. To avoid this scenario, the CFPB proposed an alternative market-wide QM rule that is based on lender pricing in relation to the average prime offer rate. Any loan priced less than 150 basis points over average prime offer (e.g. less than or equal to 5.5 percent vs an APOR of 4 percent) would be a safe harbor QM with the highest legal protections for the lender, while loans from 150 to 200 would receive rebuttable presumption designation. Loans above 200 basis points over APOR would be non-QM.
NAR’s response thanks the CFPB for its actions in avoiding the more stringent rules and requests that:
· The proposed safe harbor be expanded from 150 over APOR to 200 over APOR. In doing so, more borrowers will still qualify even if the proposed pricing rule is problematic.
· The CFPB should eliminate non-consumer credit related factors (e.g. lender’s business model, refi volume, race, etc.) from lender’s pricing measure. And,
- In time, the CFPB should transition to a better model that limits market instability and consumer impacts and which investors find appealing