It is the holiday season and local elected officials are giving us a gift by avoiding weighty or controversial issues during the season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Enjoy it while it lasts, because things always become busy by mid-January.
And just because this update is short, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some interesting topics. Check out the metro district discussions in Erie and Loveland, for example.
Regional Government Director
Occupancy Discussion Possible: The City Council may discuss occupancy revisions — but only if the issue is given priority at the annual retreat in January 2022. Recently, the staff told the Council that the City isn’t currently enforcing occupancy limits. (This year there have been 22 complaints, of which five were verified as actual violations of Boulder’s occupancy regulations.)
There is a divide between those councilors who would like to make the discussion more of a priority, and those who feel the defeat of the Bedrooms are For People ballot measure was the community’s final say on the issue. Inevitably, any discussion of occupancy has to take staffing into consideration. The City doesn’t have the staff to mount a more robust enforcement effort without more funding. In addition, it appears doubtful that there are enough supporters on Council make relaxing occupancy standards a priority at the expense of other topics.
Note: If a study can be found that shows a strong correlation between relaxing occupancy standards and housing affordability, this opinion could change. But so far, no such study has been found.
Trustees Look to Adopt Metro District Model Service Plan: The Erie Town Manager gave a biased metro district presentation to the Board of Trustees last month, leading to the conclusion that Malcolm Fleming is not a fan of metro districts. The Town Manager emphasized anecdotal homeowner comments and opinions, versus facts. BOLO Realtors® metro district study had been distributed to the Trustees and staff, but it wasn’t referenced during the discussion.
The Board of Trustees will hold a formal public hearing on a draft metro district model service plan policy in January, followed by adoption in early February. Gauging from the comments from most trustees, expect a draft policy that requires extraordinary public benefits.
Note: “Extraordinary public benefit” is a concept that has found favor in some other Northern Colorado cities such as Fort Collins. This requirement can be described as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why? By requiring metro districts to include costly public benefits, the metro district homes become more expensive, thus “proving” the argument made by critics that metro district homes are not affordable.
Latest on the Hughes Property: On December 3 CSU’s governing body approved the sale of the former Hughes Stadium property to the City of Fort Collins for $12.5 million. In the meantime, CSU is working with Cottonwood Land and Farms to purchase land in the eastern part of the City for affordable housing that was originally planned for the stadium property.
The Fort Collins City Council discussed the sale and payment methods for the Hughes parcel last month, favoring a financing approach that is expected to include a $4 million cash payment, and tax-exempt bonds to pay for the rest. The City will hire a third-party consultant to oversee a public engagement process to discuss how the Hughes property should be utilized. The Staff says that engagement process will last through 2022 and potentially into 2023.
Potential land uses within the Public Open Lands land use designation include natural area and recreation. PATHS, the group that got the Hughes proposal on the 2021 ballot, is advocating for most of the land to be preserved as a natural area.
Council Wants Changes to Metro District Policy: The Loveland City Council spent hours discussing possible changes to its model service plan for metro districts on November 23. It is hoped that the revisions will create better standards for reviewing metro district proposals, and address residents’ concerns regarding lack of disclosure and the long-term implications of paying additional mill levies for homes in metro districts.
The mayor had a long list of complaints and concerns related to metro districts, as could be expected. She said developers should be required to formally sign an agreement guaranteeing that metro district homes would cost less than non-district homes. Councilors Dave Clark and John Fogle voiced strong opposition to that suggestion, calling it illegal price-fixing.
Councilor Richard Ball argued the Loveland-Berthoud Association of REALTORS® should be required to cooperate with the MLS, but didn’t clarify how or what kind of cooperation is currently lacking. Councilor Andrea Samson said one simple solution would be to require real estate agents to include metro district information on for-sale signs.
Councilor John Fogle said he is a big fan of disclosure and wants all advertising – whether in the MLS or on a sales brochure to be standardized. He explained that the information should include the metro district information and relevant property taxes in the same large, bold font. He added that information should be listed in the same place on all advertising media.
In general, the Council voiced support for the list of recommendations proposed by staff. They were complimentary of LBAR for working with the City to come up with a more complete list of disclosure requirements. They understand that new homes are often not sold by real estate agents. There was consensus that that sales agents should be held to the same standards as agents, one of LBAR’s longstanding contentions.
The staff is finalizing the list of revisions. This item is currently scheduled for first reading in front of the City Council on January 18.
Mallo Wins Council Seat: Jon Mallo officially won the Ward IV City Council seat vacated by Dave Clark after a recount in early December. Mallo garnered 3,336 votes compared to challenger Kaitlyn Wyrick’s 3,335. He was sworn in on December 7. He was endorsed by the Loveland Berthoud Association of REALTORS®.
2022 Legislative Session: It seems like the Colorado General Assembly just adjourned. Nevertheless, we are less than a month away from the 2022 session, which begins on January 12. 2022 is an election year so conventional wisdom would say the session will be long on hyperbole and short on content. While we don’t know for sure what the session will bring, we do expect to see efforts by legislators to continue chipping away the rights of property owners (rental and short-term rental properties in particular) and a continued focus on environmentally-friendly building requirements.
NAR on VA Loans: NAR President Leslie Rouda Smith testified before the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. President Smith shared REALTORS®’ concerns about issues preventing greater utilization of VA financing including difficulties obtaining appraisals, limits on fees for services, consumer education, and recent increases to the funding fees as well as limitations on renovation financing.
Representatives from the VA, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Veterans United Home Loans also testified. The VA pointed to “myths” in the market about problems with lenders and inspections while all four other witnesses testified to those problems. The VA raised its allowable appraisal fees and turnaround times in mid-March.
Written testimony was submitted for President Smith and NAR will send a follow up letter to the committee in response to committee members’ questions.