Late Fee Moratorium: The City Council decided to move forward with an ordinance that temporarily prohibits property owners from charging late fees to tenants who are late with rental payments because of COVID-related hardships. Staff told the Council there no data as to how many residents are behind on rent payments because of COVID and voiced concern about unintended consequences. Karen Roney, the City’s Community Services Administrator, told the Council housing stability should be addressed at the state level, saying it becomes more complicated when each jurisdiction has its own rules and enforcement.
As envisioned, the ordinance will require tenants to present evidence of hardship, include a layoff notice, letter from an employer attesting the employment has been suspended or reduced because of COVID, documentation showing the tenant or a family member has been hospitalized or received medical care for COVID, or “other evidence of financial or health-related hardship related to the COVID emergency.” The ordinance will remain in effect until December 31 unless the Governor rescinds the declaration of a disaster emergency related to COVID. Landlords who violate the ordinance would be fined $500.
Councilmember Polly Christensen, who got the idea from a similar measure passed by the Broomfield City Council, called it a “modest little ordinance” to “keep people in their homes.”
Mayor Pro Tem Aren Rodriguez called it a “jackhammer approach.” “I want to see some numbers,” he added. Mayor Bagley said he didn’t want to put “this on backs of landlords.”
Despite misgivings, the Council voted 4-3 to proceed with the ordinance which will go through the formal hearing process later this month.
Preview the New Land Use Code: Larimer County is poised to unveil a new and “more user-friendly” land use code following the adoption of the latest Comprehensive Plan. Planning staff will present an overview at two virtual open house events on October 22. The new code will simplify review procedures, fine-tune development standards and modernize zoning districts and use regulations.
To register for the open house, click here: https://www.larimer.org/planning/luc2020. Those who register will be invited to participate in a pre-open house questionnaire. Information and feedback from the two sessions might be used to further fine-tune the final draft of the code.
CDOT Pursues Front-Range Rail: Thanks to legislation enabled in 2018, The Colorado Department of Transportation has been tasked with studying the feasibility of a front-range rail line from Fort Collins to Pueblo. At that time the Colorado General Assembly allocated $2.5 million to pay for the Front-Range Rail Commission.
Ironically, CDOT cannot fund its $9 billion backlog of transportation projects but the rail project has its fans, including Governor Jared Polis who supports the train as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to rail commission analysis, it would cost about $22 for a one-way ticket from Colorado Springs to Denver. In 2019 it was estimated that building the entire line would cost somewhere between $5 and $15 billion.
Even now, after COVID has affected state revenues, the Director of the Rail Commission, Randy Grauberger remains undaunted. He says the rail line could be built if Colorado receives federal funding as well as revenue from the State, which would likely be generated by a new tax paid by Front Range voters.
CDOT released a paper on initial model results at the end of August. The paper estimates a train could provide 23.4 million passenger trips a year. The biggest demand would be met by transporting people within the Denver/Boulder, Fort Collins or Colorado Springs regions.
That doesn’t mean front-range rail doesn’t have its critics. Senator John Cooke (Greeley) calls it a “boondoggle.” Henry Sobanet, former budget director for Republican and Democratic governors says there’s not enough money to pay for a multibillion-dollar rail line and billions of dollars in roadway improvements. In the meantime, Rail Commission is forging ahead.
Note: Is Mr. Grauberger naïve to think front-range voters would tax themselves for rail given RTD’s recent budget crisis and the FasTracks debacle?
Draft Greenhouse Reduction Roadmap Released: As part of the Polis Administration’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the State’s Energy Department released its draft Greenhouse Reduction Roadmap (aka Roadmap) at the end of September. If the Roadmap is adopted, its implementation will ultimately affect every Coloradoan who drives a car or owns a home.
Vehicles are one of the largest sources of emissions. The Roadmap envisions a transition to 100 percent electric cars on the road in 30 years (by 2050). Electric vehicles accounted for 2 percent of Colorado’s auto sales in 2019.
According to the Roadmap, “While Colorado’s electricity and transportation sectors are the top two sources of climate warming pollution, fuel use in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings is not far behind.” It calls for the expanded use of “clean electricity” as an alternative to fossil fuels, which it argues “could bring consumer cost savings.”
How consumers will afford electric cars and homes heated by electricity remains to be seen. Currently, neither are affordable for the average resident. Public comments on the draft Roadmap are due November 1.
More Discussion on Eviction Moratorium: Recently NAR President Vince Malta and other NAR leaders met with officials from the White House offices of the Domestic Policy Council and the National Economic Council to discuss the CDC eviction moratorium. President Malta outlined NAR’s significant concerns with the order and the burden it places on housing providers.
Malta explained that “kicking the can down the road” and creating mountains of debt for renters would simply lead to a flood of evictions come January. REALTOR® leaders presented anecdotes about the more than 40 percent of mom and pop owners around the country and how they are struggling to meet their obligations without rental income. They also explained about the confusion surrounding the order and how it is being interpreted very differently by different courts.
During the Q&A, REALTORS® asked what relief would be provided to property owners – who were ineligible to receive unemployment or PPP or EIDL loans to make up for their lost revenue. White House staff said the Administration is committed to an additional stimulus bill and are working with Congress. They are open to including rental assistance. In the absence of Congressional action, the Administration is also working to prioritize funds for more relief and will consider a rental assistance program as part of that. President Malta thanked the White House for their time and attention and offered NAR’s expertise as they move forward with further relief measures. The White House thanked NAR and REALTORS® for the dialogue.
NAR on Proposed Seasoning QM Rule: NAR’s submitted a response to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regarding its notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on a Qualified Mortgage (QM) seasoning rule. Under the rule, loans that meet product restrictions are held on bank’s portfolios for at least three years (e.g. season) and experience no more than two 30-day delinquencies and no 60-day delinquencies will gain the preferred safe harbor legal status versus their initial rebuttable presumption QM or non-QM status.
NAR commented that:
- A seasoning rule may improve liquidity of mortgages (we supported the small-lender rule), particularly for borrowers with income or employment that are more difficult to document;
- CFPB should analyze and monitor for difference in risk taking by large banks vs small banks. The assumption is that holding the loan in portfolio aligns incentives, but if the bank is too-big-to-fail, it might circumvent this design;
- CFPB should reform the QRM rule to allow and incentivize investors to push back dangerous loans that are designed to circumvent the QM rule.
SBA To Begin Processing PPP Forgiveness Applications: The U.S. Treasury Department has announced that the SBA will begin processing PPP loan forgiveness applications, following a delay which left many caught in a backlog. PPP borrowers are eligible for forgiveness if they meet the program’s requirements, which include using at least 60% of the funds for payroll costs and the remainder for other eligible uses (including rent, utility bills, and mortgage interest) during the covered period. For full forgiveness requirements, visit nar.realtor/coronavirusSBA.
PPP borrowers should submit their forgiveness applications directly to the SBA lender with whom they worked, who will then pass them to the SBA for processing. For detailed instructions on how to fill out the PPP EZ Forgiveness application form, watch NAR’s step-by-step video.
The SBA is expected to quickly approve forgiveness applications for loans less than $2 million, with reports that the backlog may be cleared in as little as two weeks. PPP borrowers have 10 months from the end of their loan’s covered period to apply for forgiveness before any payments are due on the loans.