IRES Matters | Episode 8

Carts in IRESis: A Conversation with Chris Hardy

In episode 8 of IRES Matters, we have our most system-specific episode yet. Chris Hardy, Elevations Real Estate part Owner and member of the IRES Board of Managers, shares his experience and expertise on one of our exciting system features – carts! Find out why you have been missing out if you haven’t started using this feature in your daily real estate practice, insights into applying data, and valuable tips on how to navigate the current real estate marketplace.

GET READY TO CHANGE THE GAME

Mobile devices and virtual tools are necessary in today’s real estate business environment. With the FlōPlan App and a floor plan on every one of our listings, we have the opportunity to change the game, improving all of our listings + the online client experience.

In just two weeks, you’ll have access to this innovative tool. All you’ll need to get started is your mobile phone. And while it may be tempting to wait, we encourage you to immediately scan your active listings and get those linked to your listings. Share that new floor plan with your seller and start giving online home buyers a new perspective on the home. If you work with a Listing Agent or have an Assistant, it’s a great time to connect and get a plan together! 

With the FlōPlan App, you have the power at your fingertips. Check out how easy it is as a real top producing Agent from North Dakota turns a scan into a floor plan!

There’s still more to come, so stay tuned as we continue to keep you informed! 


Now Live! IRES MLS + RealX

Innovative partnership allows real estate professionals to connect local property owners with companies looking to secure land  leases for solar, wind, timber, oil and gas, cell towers and more

Beginning today, IRES now provides members with access to the RealX exchange, which allows landowners to register their property and the rights they are willing to sell or lease. Professionals looking to place leases are then able to search the database and make offers directly to landowners faster and more efficiently than ever before possible.

RealX gives land brokers an opportunity to reconnect with past clients to determine if they would be interested in leasing their land for the placement of a variety of uses, from the placement of solar panels or wind turbines to traditional energy exploration or cell towers. In many cases, these leases can provide both public benefit as well as additional income for the landowner. As a result, RealX has experienced an average month-over-month user growth rate of more than 50% in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn More

Visit RealX.io to get started today!

More on the FlōPlan System: What’s in it for YOU?

In our first message, we announced the FlōPlan® System, the new floorplan scanning app + software we’ll be launching later this month and shared some information about why we chose this exciting product. Today, I’d like to share what that means to you in a bit more detail.  

It’s Easy

The FlōPlan App uses unique mobile phone innovation that makes scanning from your smartphone both simple and fast. On average, scans have a 99% success rate from scan to floor plan and take less than 10 minutes. When we say it’s simple, we mean it – all you need is your smartphone. Best of all, YOU don’t need to do the scan. The FlōPlan App enables you to easily assign the scan to someone else, like your Listing Agent, Assistant, Photographer, team member or even the homeowner. Once the scan is completed by your collaborator, the completed floor plan will be returned to you, the Agent.

It’s Fast

Once you complete and submit a scan, the real magic happens. Between machine-learning, artificial intelligence and the careful oversight of professionals, your scan is transformed into a high quality floor plan in about one business day. If there are any issues they’re easily corrected. 

It’s Affordable

We bet you were waiting for this moment! By licensing this at the MLS level, we buy down the cost for you. Each floor plan costs you only $12 per scanned and processed floor plan. That’s a third of the retail price! Best of all, you’re in control. Once we’re launched, you’ll have your own FlōPlan account. Simply login, enter a payment method and get scanning! 

One phone. One scan. One-touch to link to your listing. One day: delivered + live.

There’s more to come – stay tuned! 


Learn More About FloPlan:

Regional Government Affairs Update March 1, 2021 🐥

LOCAL
Boulder County
Boulder

Revisions to Mobile Home Sales Regulations: Boulder’s City Council passed an ordinance on Feb. 16 designed to solve concerns related to challenges faced by homeowners when selling mobile or manufactured homes. Owners of these homes reported park managers or owners interfered, discouraged, or delayed sales or purchases. The ordinance requires park managers to provide information on park rules and leases within three days and expands the timeline to provide notice of buyer approval or denial of entrance into the community to 10 business days, among other new requirements. 

The Council was pleased with the ordinance, which passed unanimously. “This project helps preserve affordable market-rate housing in Boulder,” said Adam Swetlik. Mayor Sam Weaver boasted that Boulder was a leader in the area of manufactured housing, saying, “We are helping lead the State forward, so this is a great step.” 

Longmont
City STEAMS Forward: In 2018 the City Council adopted a work plan that included a new vision for the St. Vrain River corridor from the Sugar Mill to the Fairgrounds. Staff was directed to proceed with a new planning initiative to create an “epicenter of science, technology, education, arts, and mathematics (S.T.E.A.M.)” to become a vibrant economic, residential, cultural, and entertainment district.

On Feb. 16 the City Council received an update on this project from Tony Chacon, the City’s Redevelopment Manager and Glen Van NimWegen, the new Director of Planning. COVID caused some delays but staff is ready to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for STEAM in May. Chacon said because of its history and uses the area is likely subject to some form of environmental degradation, which will qualify it as a “brownfields redevelopment area.” While this means its redevelopment will be expensive, it also means the City qualifies for brownfields grants from State and Federal agencies. 

During limited comments following the presentation, Councilmember Joan Peck said she is excited about STEAM, while Mayor Pro Tem Aren Rodriguez and Councilmember Polly Christensen voiced reservations. Rodriguez said he felt the City would be better served to focus on the Highway 287 (Main Street) redevelopment program rather than the Sugar Mill site. Christensen said she agreed with Rodriguez and advised the staff to start with the commercial sub-plans for the project versus the residential component to create “an automatic rental pool.”

Note: In conjunction with this project the City hired the services of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), which will present its findings on the Sugar Mill site to the City Council later this spring. The ULI offers advice and experience on the topics of “compact development, transportation, urban design and workforce housing.”

Larimer County
Fort Collins

Council Revises Stadium Ballot Language per Court Order: The Larimer County District Court ordered the City to include a contested portion of a citizen-initiated ballot measure that directs Fort Collins to purchase the former Hughes Stadium site and zone it as open lands. The City had argued some of the provisions in the ballot initiative, especially the section ordering the City to “acquire the property,” were administrative and not subject to a citizen initiative.

In a February 15 Coloradoan article, City Attorney Carrie Daggett revealed that the City is evaluating whether to appeal the District Court’s order. Nonetheless, on Feb. 16 the City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution to revise the initiative as directed by the District Court and add it to the April 6 election. 

Judge Juan Villaseñor ordered the City to submit the following language to the voters:

“Shall the City enact an ordinance requiring the City Council of the City of Fort Collins to immediately rezone upon passage of the ordinance a 164.56-acre parcel of real property formerly home to the Hughes Stadium from the Transition District to the Public Open Lands District, and requiring the City to acquire the property at fair market value to use said property for parks, recreation, and open lands, natural areas, and wildlife rescue and restoration, and further prohibiting the City from de-annexing, ceasing acquisition efforts or subsequently rezoning the property without voter approval of a separate initiative referred to the voters by City Council, and granting legal standing to any registered elector in the City to seek injunctive and/or declaratory relief in the courts related to City noncompliance with said ordinance.”

The only members of the Council willing to voice an opinion on the issue were the two who are term-limited: Mayor Wade Troxell and Councilmember Ross Cunniff. The Mayor noted he supports the motion to let the voters decide but cautioned, “Hughes owned by a state entity …. Not the jurisdiction of the City of Fort Collins… We have to be fully transparent, the desires (of the activists) won’t happen regarding the purchase. When you have an unwilling seller… it won’t clear as a sale.” Cunniff, who lives in the neighborhood adjacent to the stadium said he supported the ballot measure.

This is a complex issue. Can citizens force their government to purchase the property? What if the owner (CSU) is unwilling to sell? These questions will become relevant if Fort Collins voters approve the ballot measure on April 6. 

Loveland
No Consensus on Occupancy Standards: The City Council and Planning Commission (PC) held a joint meeting on Feb. 23 but the PC was unable to convince the Council to adopt its recommendation concerning a more relaxed occupancy standard. 

Occupancy standards became an issue for City planning staff several years ago when they began to receive questions about the legality of various “group home” options in Loveland. The City’s new development code – the Unified Development Code (UDC) – defines four unrelated individuals living together as a “rooming house,” which is not allowed in a single-family zone, so almost any group home scenario wouldn’t be allowed in a single-family zone if more than three people were to reside there. 

Staff worked with the PC to come up with an occupancy standard for single-family zones that “better fit the Loveland community,” said City planner Kerri Burchett. She reminded the joint meeting participants that the current definition allows an unlimited number of “family” members to live in a house. After some discussion, the PC decided to propose a U+3 (four unrelated people) standard and agreed that it would also be amenable to U+4 (five unrelated people).

However, the Council expressed little support for the recommendation. Councilmember Andrea Samson said, “I don’t like this.” Other councilors, like Don Overcash, expressed concern that it is discriminatory to limit the number of unrelated people living in a home since a family can include an unlimited number of people. City Attorney Moses Garcia’s comment that the lack of an occupancy standard in the UCD could create issues if the City was taken to court didn’t seem to persuade the Council, either. Only two councilors (Kathi Wright and Dave Clark) supported the PC recommendation. 

Long-Range Planner Bob Paulsen tried to soothe frustrated Councilmembers, saying “There’s no tougher issue in planning than this (occupancy standards).”After a long discussion, the City Manager said staff would draft up several options to bring back in front of the Council at a future date.

The Council did agree with the recommendation to add more flexibility to the City’s accessory dwelling unit regulations. The proposal will keep the recommended building footprint of 10 percent of the total lot area, but allow a maximum square footage of 900 SF in all residential zones. The ADU will have to be smaller in building footprint than the principal dwelling and can’t exceed the height of the principal dwelling unless the ADU is accessed from an alley. Staff will now draft an ordinance including these ADU revisions for formal Council review.

Weld County
Greeley

Council Looks at Small Format Housing Options: Continuing its discussion of land use code changes to implement Greeley’s Housing Strategic Plan, planning staff walked the Council through options for “small format housing” on Feb. 23. The goal of the plan is to encourage more affordable housing in the City. 

Most of the home concepts are related to design ideas such as “tall and skinny”, “laneway” or alley homes, accessory dwelling units, mobile home lot sizes, or tiny homes. Staff wanted the Council’s input on the designs and which zones would be appropriate for these options. 

Consultants working for the City had made some recommendations such as enabling a courtyard housing pattern (good for deeper lots) and allowing smaller, compact lots. These recommendations didn’t generate much comment from the Council but some of the design concepts led to more feedback.

Mayor Gates said he “could live with all the changes” recommended by staff.

Councilmember Tommy Butler said he loved the ideas. Some of the other councilors had reservations. Kristin Zasada said she struggles with the ADU concept because there is a problem ADU in her neighborhood. She was adamant that she is “not ok” with them in the R-L zone. Dale Hall agreed with her but Brett Payton said he wanted to see options for them. 

Staff will continue working with the Housing Advisory Committee on the small format housing recommendations and will come back to Council with a whole package of code changes in September.

City Seeks Feedback on Occupancy Standards: One of the options Greeley could explore to increase housing affordability is to relax its occupancy limits in most single-family neighborhoods. Currently, no more than two unrelated adults can share a home, regardless of the home’s number of bedrooms. This topic has generated controversy in many Colorado communities so the staff was instructed to gather as much citizen feedback on the issue as possible. 

There are two ways to give your thoughts. A virtual Open House has been scheduled for March 1 at 6:00 pm. Register in advance for the Open House here: https://tinyurl.com/3axwbkbr

In addition, take the City’s survey. It is available here:  https://tinyurl.com/yfw5u5hz

COLORADO ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
Legislative Update: The 2021 legislative session resumed on February 16 and CAR lobbyists and staff were busy reviewing hundreds of bills. CAR’s Legislative Policy Committee (LPC) met and discussed the 30 real estate-related bills introduced so far on Feb. 19. 

The LPC directed CAR’s lobbying team to do its best to amend bills of most concern, for example, House Bill 1117 “Local Government Authority to Promote Affordable Housing Units.” This bill appears to be an attempt to weaken Colorado’s statutory prohibition on rent control, by emphasizing the legislature’s authority to permit local rent control ordinances as long as such ordinances provide a choice of options to the developer when requiring the construction of affordable housing units. 

Note: More information on the bills of most interest to real estate will be provided later in the session. As mentioned, many bills CAR is watching are in an “amend” position. The hope is that these bills will see substantive revisions if CAR’s lobbying team and other political allies are successful. 

NATION
NAR Report Outlines Policies to Address Housing Affordability Problems: Nationwide housing inventory is lower than it’s been since the National Association of Realtors® began tracking this data in 1982.  To continue its work to address a problem that has long plagued American communities and has been worsened by COVID-19, NAR just released new research arguing that the nation’s affordability crisis will require policymakers to adopt localized solutions. The paper, State and Local Policy Strategies to Advance Housing Affordability, recommends lawmakers pursue solutions through three key avenues: financial policy measures; policies aimed at increasing the supply of housing and zoning; and permitting policy reform.

In a presentation, the report’s authors said Colorado one of the worst-hit states re affordability. They said the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metropolitan area is one of the least affordable markets among large-sized metro areas. Other large-size markets that are similarly unaffordable include San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (CA), Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade(CA), and Portland (OR). Among small metro markets, the only Colorado city to make the least affordable list was Boulder.

The authors admit there are no “silver bullets” to magically solve housing affordability. They describe a variety of policies such as downpayment assistance, accessory dwelling units, density bonuses, and inclusionary zoning, saying “governments and policymakers should look for a combination of policies that best fits the needs of their communities and local housing markets.” Read the report here:
https://realtorparty.realtor/homepage/latest-news/nar-report-housing-affordability

NAR’s Advocacy Agenda for the 117th Congress: What are NAR’s advocacy objectives for the next two years? The Association has four goals: Improve Access to Homeownership, Enable a Quick Economic Recovery After COVId-19, Ensure Fair Housing for All and Build Strong, Resilient Communities and Businesses. Click here for more information: https://tinyurl.com/27ukm45s

Introducing FlōPlan

As part of our ongoing commitment to provide you with the best technology and business tools, we’re excited to announce the FlōPlan® System, launching next month! 

What is The FlōPlan System?

The FlōPlan System is an easy-to-use floor plan app + software system by FBS (a leading provider of industry technology), that gives you the ability to create a floor plan for every one of your listings quickly, easily and affordably and link them to your listings. 

Why floor plans and the FlōPlan System?

We licensed the FlōPlan System for a few very important reasons. The most important? Floor plans are an essential piece of listing content, improving the listing – for everyone. By licensing the FlōPlan System, we have the power to improve our market and the customer experience together.

  1. Buyers want them: Annual NAR research tells us that Buyers want floor plans, ranking them just beneath photos and property information for value and importance. Floor plans take the guesswork out of the process giving buyers an instant visual of the layout so they can imagine living in it.  
  2. Floor plans sell homes: Floor plans help listings get sold. By providing Buyers with a complete visual of the layout at the right time (while they’re parsing through listings online), they can prioritize which properties they want to tour with better accuracy, minimizing the disappointments and maximizing efficiency. 
  3. Floor plans improve listing content: Floor plans are new media that improves and enriches the listing record and the MLS database.

We need Y-O-U!

We’re looking for early adopters/beta testers to try out the product, provide feedback, and become “brand ambassadors” for this new IRES offering. If you’re interested in this, please visit the IRESis start screen for additional information and the link to sign up for early access.


Regional Government Affairs Update February 15, 2021 🏡

LOCAL
Boulder County
Polis Continues Push For Rail: According to the Denver Business Journal, Governor Polis’ support for Line-B, the long-awaited rail line to Boulder and Longmont, has put new life into the plan. Some RTD Board members have criticized the Governor, saying he is using his influence to move the focus from providing service to lower-income, transit-dependent Denver communities to advocate for rail to Polis’ hometown. 

At the end of a study session on February 9, RTD General Manager/CEO Debra Johnson said she’ll offer a proposal within 60 days on how to proceed with an environmental assessment and study on how to provide peak-hour rail service to Boulder County. Past directors and boards have stated that the rail line could not be completed until 2042, if at all, so any move to accelerate that would represent a major step forward.

Polis had previously created a special commission to look at RTD operations and has called for the B-Line to be completed by 2025. At the study session, Polis spoke about the need to restore the voters’ trust since they have paid roughly $250 million in taxes since backing the FasTracks initiative in 2004 but have gotten nothing for it. “As a progressive who feels we need to deliver on the initiatives we pursue, it creates a gap in public trust that doesn’t just involve transit. It’s a matter of how we restore that public trust,” he said.

Note: In giving the Longmont Council a status report on the study session later that evening, Councilmember Joan Peck said no one has a current estimate on the cost for the B-line. “I still have hope we will get this done,” she said.

Longmont
Council Approves Water Purchase: On February 9 the City Council approved an agreement with the Longs Peak Water District to acquire capacity in a raw water delivery pipeline. The pipeline is owned and operated by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Southern Water Supply Water Activity Enterprise (NCWCD). The agreement covers the sale and transfer of one cubic foot per second (CFS) of capacity in the SWSP II project that Longs Peak water will not need for build-out of their service area. 
 
The City currently owns 24.3 CFS of capacity in the Southern Water Supply Project. The additional water, when added to the City’s existing capacity, will provide Longmont with sufficient capacity to meet the winter water demands of the City at buildout of the Longmont Planning Area. Winter capacity is critical, as several of the City’s raw water delivery systems are not available throughout the year. 
 
Larimer County
Take the Housing Survey: In early January the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) saw a big change, with two experienced commissioners (Tom Donnelly and Steve Johnson) going off the Board and two new commissioners  (Kristin Stephens and Jody Shadduck-McNally) joining John Kefalas. One of the first steps was to familiarize the commissioners with the existing strategic plan.
 
Heather O’Hare, the County’s Director of Human Services led a discussion of Strategic Goal Number 2 at a study session: “Everyone in Larimer County has access to economic opportunities and a vibrant quality of life. We work together to remove barriers.” https://www.larimer.org/strategicplan/goal-2
 
One of the objectives under Goal Number 2 pertains to housing: “By 2023, Larimer County will reduce the housing overburdened ratio by at least 5% for both owned and rented units. Strategies may include partnerships with municipalities and other agencies to develop and revise applicable requirements and policies; and/or champion projects that provide access to affordable housing.” Staff told the new commissioners two upcoming study sessions will focus on housing. 
 
To kick off the county’s work on this issue, residents are asked to fill out a housing survey, which may be accessed here: www.larimer.housingimpactlab.com. Note: This survey is available until Feb. 28.

Fort Collins
City Council Approves New Mortgage Down Payment Option: Without discussion, the City Council approved a resolution that will allow Fort Collins residents to participate in a down payment assistance program administered by the City and County of Denver known as the Metro Mortgage Assistance Plus Program (MMAPP). Without cost to the City, the program expands the range of assistance available to households earning up to $150,000.

Fort Collins has offered its own program for years but rising prices have created difficulties for residents, including those with incomes above the City’s 80 percent AMI income limit. MMAPP isn’t limited to first-time buyers, either. There is no maximum purchase price and serves residents with a minimum credit score of 640.

The program has been so successful that it now includes over 35 Colorado cities and eight counties, including Larimer. 

Council Discusses Montava Water Request: The 4,000 home Montava project planned for northeast Fort Collins hinges on finding a solution to water. Developer Max Moss has filed an application in Colorado Water Court to allow him to use an underground aquifer to provide drinking water to the proposed community. He expects that it will at least 18 months to 2 years to get a decision, and thus the project will likely be put on hold until mid-2022.
 
In the meantime, the City has been wrestling with Moss’s innovative water plan, which is different from the traditional approach. He told the City ELCO’s water is too expensive for his project, which as City Councilmember Ken Summers said, is “the single largest development … that will ever happen in Northern Colorado.”

On February 9 the City Council has asked to consider three concepts related to the Montava project:

  • Water Adequacy – A need to develop a new process and policy to address the adequacy of any water supply proposals that are different than the standard, existing water providers. 
  • Additional Water Providers -Potential addition of new water provider(s) in the Fort Collins Growth Management Area (GMA). Could authorize Montava to be a water provider and operate a treatment and distribution system.
  • Water Augmentation Agreements – enter into a perpetual augmentation water agreement with the developer to support groundwater pumping. 

Councilmember Ross Cunniff started off the discussion, saying “I am sorry staff had to go to so much work. I am even more convinced it is a bad idea after hearing this presentation. Fort Collins water is cheaper so it is attractive to ‘this type of scheme.’” 

Susan Gutowsky and Julie Pignataro agreed with Cunniff, with Gutowsky saying, “I can’t believe the developer didn’t ask where he’d get the water a long time ago. I don’t understand why now it’s an emergency and we’re going to ask Fort Collins to use its utilities… I am hesitant to support it.”

After some clarifying information, in which staff explained the developer would pay for a consultant to help develop a non-standard water adequacy determination process and policy the tone of the Council discussion changed.

Emily Gorgol, Melanie Potyondy, Ken Summers, and Mayor Troxell had questions but supported the need for a consultant to help the City staff. Then Ross Cunniff and Susan Gutowsky dropped their objections. Theresa Conner, the City’s Interim Utilities Executive Director agreed to put together more information on the project’s augmentation plan and said staff would work jointly with the developer and ELCO to put together a non-standard water plan.

Weld County
Greeley

Council Split on Changes to Occupancy Limits: Planner Caleb Jackson briefed the City Council on a concept that arose from the City’s Strategic Housing Plan, loosening the City’s occupancy limits in low-density zones. Currently, the City allows any number of family members to occupy a home however, no more than two unrelated adults can share a single-family dwelling (U+1).

Jackson cited rising housing costs, stagnating, wages, changing demographics, and low housing supply as some of the reasons why other cities in Colorado are relaxing occupancy standards. He said the Housing Task Force, Planning Commission, and Code Advisory Committee had general consensus to increase allowance in an incremental way. A public survey showed 62 percent of respondents supported a change. 

Community Developer Director Brad Mueller noted any decision would require multiple conversations, saying, “This is not a one and done discussion.” Several options to relax occupancy standards were presented to the Council: Increase to U+2 3 or 4, tie occupancy to the number of bedrooms or tie it to house size.

Councilmember Ed Clark said the City can’t enforce how many people live in a dwelling “that is a frustrating piece. I am not in favor of going higher than U+1… I am a no.”

Councilmember Dale Hall said he was concerned about the disparity between related and unrelated residents living in a home. He noted, “There could have a bunch of people in a family that are causing noise and parking problem but there is no solution. Unrelated people get the backlash.” Hall said he likes occupancy tied to bedrooms as an option.  Councilmember Tommy Butler agreed with Hall on the ‘bedroom option’ and added, “U+1 is a joke.” 

Kristin Zasada voiced strong disagreement. She said, “my mission is to protect RL zoning.” She added, “I will never be convinced that we should change just because neighboring communities are doing it.” Brett Payton said enforcement is complaint-based. “The way it is currently written isn’t doing anyone any good. I am in favor of some change.” 

Michael Fitzsimmons admitted to struggling with the issue. He said he wanted to know why other cities have increased their zoning. He agreed that the City needed more enforcement tools, especially if the City were to relax occupancy standards a little saying, “if we are doing these changes they need some bite.” 

Mayor Gates was the last Councilmember to speak. He said we might be “spending time on something we can’t or won’t enforce. Part of me says we should leave it alone.” 

After asking for a show of hands for each option presented by staff, Mayor Gates said there was “weak consensus” for further consideration for relaxing occupancy based on bedroom size. Brad Mueller concluded the conversation, saying cost and housing are connected and that the occupancy standard issue would be back in front of Council as part of the bigger package of proposed housing-related code changes in September. 

Note: The City Council in Denver voted to relax Denver’soccupancy standards last week. 

STATE
Lawmakers say New Transportation Plan Has Support: Rep. Matt Gray and Senator Faith Winter have a plan to infuse funding into Colorado’s transportation infrastructure.  They’re lining up support before their proposal has even been drafted to make sure their proposal is approved by the General Assembly.

“We’re confident,” Gray said in an interview with Colorado Politics. “We think this is the best shot we’ve had in a long time because we have both the leadership of our chambers and the governor’s office in alignment with us.

The plan would boost transportation revenues through fee increases on individuals and businesses (for example, Uber, DoorDash, FedEx, and Amazon)  as well as contributions from lawmakers via the state’s general fund. Business interests and advocates appear to be on board too, but in interviews with Colorado Politics, they stressed the need for a significant general fund commitment.

House Speaker Alec Garnett, D-Denver, and Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, who Gray and Winter say are signed on as sponsors, will provide the political muscle. Gray says they’re looking to move quickly. “It’s not going to drop on the first day, but all four sponsors want to introduce it as soon as possible.”

NATION
Hick’s Committee Assignments: New Colorado Senator John Hickenlooper has been named to serve on four committees, including Senate committees on Energy and Natural Resources; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. For transportation advocates, this is welcome news. 

The federal transportation spending bill, also known as the FAST Act, expires soon. Having a Colorado Senator sit on the Senate Transportation Committee will be helpful moving forward as we lobby for infrastructure funding that would benefit our state.

Rental Relief: NAR reports that as part of December’s COVID-19 stimulus package, $25 billion in federal assistance funds are expected to be disbursed to states. There could be a rush for funds with an estimated 14 million Americans are behind on their rent. Further, rental arrears in the country may be near $70 billion, CNBC reports.

To qualify for rental assistance, at least one member of a household must have experienced income loss, significant expenses due to the pandemic, or are eligible for unemployment benefits. They will need to show they are or could be at risk of homelessness. The person’s current income level also can’t be higher than 80 percent of the area’s median income. 

Renters could be eligible for up to a total of 12 months of back rent and utility bills. They may also be eligible to get payments to cover future rental payments. The funds are paid directly to the landlord or utility company.

Landlords may also be able to apply on behalf of their tenants, as long as they get approval from the tenant. Some states are already offering existing rental assistance programs under monies previously provided through the CARES Act. They may add the new funds to their existing rental assistance programs or start a new program.

NAR joined its coalition partners to urge the Departments of Treasury and HUD to provide clear guidance to state and local governments when distributing federal rental assistance funds. In the letter, NAR urged them to ensure that the funds would be used to pay rental arrears, to ensure rental housing properties remain financially viable. 

NAR also urged flexibility for landlords to obtain resident consent, especially when delinquent tenants may be avoiding landlord communications. The letter requests that the existing Treasury FAQs be updated to reflect that. This letter is a follow-up to a call that NAR had with staff of the White House, Treasury, and HUD in late January. NAR continues to urge that successful programs will ensure property owners are made whole, and renters aren’t saddled with outstanding debt.

IRES Matters | Episode 7

FlōPlan: A Floor Plan for Every Listing?

In episode 7 of IRES Matters, we sit down with Michael Wurzer, CEO of FBS, RESO Vice-Chair, and founder of FlōPlan software. We discuss the partnership with IRES, where the idea for PloPlan came from, and the serendipity that led to this innovative solution coming into being. FlōPlan will soon be integrated with the IRESis system, providing ease of access to the benefits of this software for all IRES subscribers.

Regional Government Affairs Update January 29, 2021 ❄

LOCAL
Boulder County
Elected Push RTD on Rail: Debra Johnson, RTD’s new CEO is trying to manage expectations as she attempts to resuscitate the transit district, which was in trouble before COVID and has struggled more since the outbreak began. According to Colorado Public Radio, she questioned the viability of the B Line from Westminster to Longmont, which is now estimated to cost $1.5 billion. “While we’re fixated on rail because it’s sexy and everyone wants to ride the iron horse, we have to keep in mind what might be more viable,” she said.
 
Johnson explained the line’s ridership would not qualify it for federal money to complete the project. The most recent estimates put daily ridership at 5,400 and 1,400 for rush-hour only service. That option has been favored by some local officials (including Longmont Mayor Brian Bagley) who want RTD to keep its promise of bring rail to Boulder County municipalities. 
 
RTD’s own elected Board of Directors in 2019 recommitted to completing the unfinished FasTracks lines, including the B Line. But the agency is facing long-term financial issues on its FasTracks lines that will hit in earnest in about five years. 
 
After Johnson made the comments, Governor Polis wrote to her, stating that he was “extremely concerned” by reports that she had questioned whether extending the Northwest Rail Line is the best option for the region. Polis wrote of RTD’s “statutory and ethical duty” to voters to complete FasTracks. “I am committed to ensuring that during my tenure as Governor and beyond, that sacred promise with taxpayers is kept,” Polis said.
 
A few days later RTD’s board of directors announced they will hold a special study session on the topic on February 9 to which Governor Polis has been invited to attend. However, the question remains; if RTD doesn’t have the revenues to pay for the B Line, will pressure make any difference? Do elected officials really think their efforts will force RTD to build rail or is it a publicity stunt intended to placate the public?
 
Boulder
Council Discusses Priorities at Retreat: The Boulder City Council discussed its priorities for 2021 at its recent retreat. Councilmember Mirabai Nagle proposed an update to the Gunbarrel Subcommunity Plan. Staff agreed there should be time to consider that project in the second half of the year. 

Otherwise, the City Council agreed to stick to its original 12 priorities of racial equity, the Boulder and Xcel Energy partnership, climate mobilization, the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan, the financial strategy study committee, homelessness, housing, police oversight, South Boulder Creek flood mitigation and the CU South project, Vision Zero and phase two of the community benefits and use table and standards projects. 

The Council did decide to delay work on one of its more controversial topics at the retreat — occupancy limits.  Councilmembers Aaron Brockett and Rachel Friend wanted the topic to be added to the 2021 work plan. However, since the advocacy group, Bedrooms Are For People (BAFP), has already submitted its initiative petition to put the question on the November ballot, most of the Council argued against making occupancy limits a priority. If the measure passes in November, the City will have to implement it. If it doesn’t, the Council can consider post-election alternatives. 

Longmont
More Changes for Short-Term Rental Ordinance: The first warning came when the first reading for revisions to the Short-Term Rental (STR) ordinance was pulled off the Consent Agenda. Normally ordinances are approved on the Consent Agenda without discussion because the Council understands that the second reading and public hearing will offer plenty of opportunity for dialog.

Councilmembers Joan Peck and Polly Christensen began the discussion with a series of statements intended to curtail the property rights of those who own STRs. Peck argued that owners of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) shouldn’t be allowed to rent them as STRs, even though that has always been allowed in Longmont’s ordinance. A motion to revise the ordinance to eliminate the rental of ADUs passed 4-3, with Mayor Bagley, and Councilmembers Tim Waters and Marcia Martin opposed.

Polly Christensen complained about the ordinance’s silence on ownership of STRs by LLCs and other trusts, saying she thought “everyone” agreed that only natural persons should be allowed to rent their STRs. Mayor Bagley sarcastically noted, “I know there is a prevailing thought that ‘corporations are bad,’ but I don’t see a downside with an LLC owning one.” Marcia Martin tried to help by suggesting an owner could disclose the ownership by an LLC when applying for a license to rent an LLC but that wasn’t enough for the majority. A motion to prohibit LLCs from owning STR properties passed. 

Because the changes supported by the Council will require more drafting by the City’s legal staff, Mayor Bagley suggested the ordinance be sent to the attorneys for revision. It is unknown whether those changes will be ready in time for second reading which was previously scheduled for February 9 or if that date will be pushed back. Initially, the only substantive changes to the ordinance add language to the Land Use Code’s property ownership verification requirements to place a higher burden on applicants to prove they are meeting Longmont’s residency requirements.

Larimer County
Fort Collins

CSU Unveils Plan for Hughes Stadium Site:  Colorado State University has released information on its vision for the former Hughes Stadium site even as a neighborhood advocacy group continues its push to convince voters to tell the City to buy the parcel for open space and parks. 
 
The University now plans to oversee and develop the property itself instead of immediately selling to Lennar Colorado LLC. According to information shared with the community recently, CSU would like to see 242 single-family homes, 112 single-family attached dwellings, 108 townhomes and an apartment complex on the site, along with a childcare facility, a transit center, commercial space and 40-45 acres of natural areas and trail connectivity. 
 
CSU’s information sheet says 100 percent of the rental units will qualify as affordable housing for people making 80 percent or less of the AMI*, while attainable housing for purchase will be available at or below market prices. CSU is working to garner support for its plan by asking citizens and community groups to sign a letter of support, which will be sent to the City Council. 

* The City’s AMI is currently $59,600 for a single person or $85,100 for a family of four.

Housing Strategic Plan Update: City staff provided another update on the Draft Housing Strategy Plan. On January 26. The discussion focused on prioritizing the 26 strategies designed to address the greatest housing challenges, produce meaningful outcomes, and “expand housing choice in Fort Collins across the entire spectrum of housing preference and need.”

Staff has divided the strategies into short-term (one year or less), middle and long-term strategies (2+years to implement). 
 
Examples of quick wins include:

  • Assessment of displacement and gentrification
  • Recalibration of existing incentives to reflect current market conditions
  • Foreclosure and eviction prevention and legal representation (it took a ballot initiative in Boulder to implement this) 

 
Examples of middle-term strategies include: 

  • Advocacy for housing-related legislation at the state and federal levels 
  • Removal of barriers to accessory dwelling units
  • Exploration of revisions to occupancy limits and family definitions

 
Examples of long-term strategies include:

  • Promotion of inclusivity, housing diversity and affordability as community goals
  • Creation of a visitability (accessibility for the elderly and handicapped persons) policy
  • Exploration of a mandated rental license/registry program

 
To-date, 130 residents have weighed in so far, and there have been many stories from residents struggling to afford housing, said the staff. The City Council did not offer a lot of specific feedback but was overwhelming positive about the plan. Review the draft Housing Strategic Plan here: https://www.fcgov.com/housing/ The Council will begin a formal review of the plan on February 16, 2021.
 
Weld County 
Greeley

Council Reviews Progress on Goals: On January 26 City Manager Roy Otto provided a review of the staff’s progress on the 3-Year Strategic Work Plan (SWP. The SWP was approved by the Council in early 2020. The priority initiatives include Greeley Water, Leadership in Educational Excellence, Dynamic and Resilient Economy, Your Home is Here, Greeley on the Move, We are One and Operational Excellence.
 
Of these initiatives water, housing and transportation relate the most closely to our industry. Otto told the Council he was proud of the staff for making progress on all the initiatives in spite of the COVID pandemic and its impact on the community.
 
Otto said City staff did a great job acquiring water in 2020, purchasing the most water rights since 2010. This year the City will focus on getting approval for the Terry Ranch aquifer project, Landscape Code revisions, collaboration with other regional water providers and governments on wildfire recovery and impact mitigation. 
 
The Your Home is Here (Housing) initiative has four priorities: evaluating the Strategic Housing Plan and implementing it, designing a program that supports the identification of neighborhoods and ensuring each has a unique identity, creating a plan to ensure future development is built around the village concept and exploring the expansion and marketing of the G-HOPE program and others that assist with home down payment assistance.
 
Staff is currently drafting regulations to implement the Strategic Housing Plan and updating the Development Code to include the Village Urban Design concept. Staff has identified over 70 sites that are under-utilized for residential development city-wide.
 
In terms of transportation (Greeley on the Move), the Council decided to postpone a ballot question to extend the Keep Greeley Moving tax until November 2021, so public outreach on that will occur this year. In 2020 Staff focused on a variety of transportation plans and continuing street upgrades. The Transportation Master Plan, including stakeholder engagement is an important 2021 priority.
 
REGION
Another Water Lawsuit: Three advocacy groups have sued Larimer County and Northern Water, asking a district court judge to reverse the Larimer Board of County Commissioners’ decision to grant a permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP). No Pipe Dream, Save Rural NoCo Corp. and Save the Poudre filed a lawsuit in 8th Judicial District Court against the County Commissioners, naming former commissioners Tom Donnelly and Steve Johnson specifically, as well as the NISP Water Activity Enterprise.
 
The lawsuit asks the judge to reverse the decision to grant a 1041 permit for the project, throw it out or send it back to the Larimer County Board of Commissioners for a new hearing. It targets Johnson and Donnelly, the two yes votes in a split decision, saying that both Republican commissioners, who have since left office, should not have voted on the permit because of a “decade-long” record of advocacy and support for the proposed reservoir project.
 
“We are suing Larimer County because Donnelly and Johnson should not have participated in, or voted on, the NISP permit, as well as their final illegal ruling to approve the NISP 1041 permit,” said Gary Wockner. Wockner, who is the driving force behind Save the Poudre and Save the Colorado, uses lawsuits as a tactic to delay water storage projects.
“We call on this new Larimer County Commission to reconsider the illegal actions and decisions of the previous commission,” Wockner said. “NISP would be the biggest and most environmentally damaging project in Larimer County history, and throughout the county permitting process over 90% of public comments opposed NISP.”
 
COLORADO ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
CAR Supports New Legislation in Support of 100-year Anniversary: Liz Peetz, CAR’s Vice-President for Public Policy described four bills CAR is hoping to get through the legislature once it resumes in February as part of CAR’s Century of Opportunity campaign. Here is a list of the proposed legislation: 

  • Financial literacy in the high school curriculum.
  • Annual reporting by the Division of Housing on how housing dollars are spent in Colorado.
  • Building credit for tenants that wish to enter homeownership.
  • Incentivizing affordable housing dollars approved by voters (Prop EE) to give grants to local governments pursuing best practices in affordable housing development.

STATE
New State Housing Group Advocating for Legislation: The Colorado Housing Affordability Project (CHAP) is a new player on the state scene lobbying for legislative changes to promote housing affordability. Its founders include attorneys, land use consultants, planners, and architects. 
 
During a recent presentation, CHAP outlined a series of proposals it would like to see the legislature consider, including the following, primarily in any city or county with more than 50,000 residents in most zoning districts.
 

  • Allow accessory dwelling units by-right in  
  • Allow a minimum of 25 dwelling units per acre on all properties within one-eighth of a mile of any fixed transit station. 
  • Allow by right a minimum of 10 dwelling units per acre in at least 10 percent of the land area of the city or town.
  • Prohibit local measures capping or limiting the issuance of building permits for the exclusive purpose of limiting population of housing unit growth.
  • Reduce minimum parking requirements by 50 percent for any deed-restricted affordable housing units.
  • Require counties and cities to assess housing affordability and affordable housing needs, set goals for a 20-year period for addressing those needs, and identify strategies for achieving those goals while mitigating displacement impacts.
  • Limit criteria for approval to consistency with the local comprehensive plan.
  • Empower local governments to adopt mandatory inclusionary requirements for rental and owned units, coupled with incentives and flexibility for developers.

Are all these concepts the real estate industry would support carte blanche? Perhaps not but they are interesting suggestions that should be discussed – before any housing in Colorado that is even close to affordable becomes a thing of the past.

https://cohousingaffordabilityproject.org

Environmental Activists Pushing for Action: There’s frustration among impatient environmentalists with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ climate leadership, saying Polis needs to act faster and more aggressively.  Polis recently touted the progress of his roadmap to lower greenhouse gas emissions, but the State’s projections show Colorado is on pace to get only about halfway to its stated goals for the years 2025 and 2030. 
When the Legislature returns to the Capitol in February, Democrats plan to introduce a broad package of climate bills that are unprecedented in his tenure. Some proposed policies are meant to put the squeeze on him to force action on stronger regulations and emissions cuts.

Generally speaking, Polis has favored free-market solutions while environmentalists and some Democratic lawmakers believe tighter regulation will promote swifter and more effective action. Two environmentalist groups have also sued Polis, alleging that the state missed a 2020 deadline.

In a statement provided to The Denver Post, Polis spokesman Conor Cahill said his office had not seen the bill — it’s still being drafted — but offered several reasons why Polis might oppose certain climate legislation to come. According to the Governor’s spokesperson, “The Governor strongly supports the legislative work described in the Greenhouse Gas Roadmap plan. Other legislation would have to meet the objectives of the roadmap without diverting efforts, hurting the economy, or reducing the ability of the state to reach our aggressive clean energy goals.  He added that “racial equity and economic justice” are key to the governor’s climate priorities. 

Interviews with about a dozen lawmakers indicate Winter’s bill will be one in a slew of proposals; others include reducing emissions in the transportation and building sectors; lowering tax rates to incentivize battery storage of solar and wind energy in a state where more than half of its electricity still comes from coal; plugging leaks of the powerful greenhouse gas methane at mines, landfills and agricultural facilities; and bolstering resources for the Public Utilities Commission.

Much of that legislation will likely pass, some with bipartisan support. It’s mandated change that gets much trickier, both with more moderate Democrats and with Polis. The final approved version of the Governor’s Colorado Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap is available now: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jzLvFcrDryhhs9ZkT_UXkQM_0LiiYZfq/view  Expect new legislation to be closely tied to the strategies listed in the plan. 

NATION
NAR and Coalition Advocate for Rental Assistance: Following his inauguration on January 20, President Job Biden signed a number of executive orders. One of the orders signed that day is an extension of the eviction moratorium through “at least” March 31.

NAR and a coalition of housing-related groups had sent a letter to Mr. Biden saying, “We are concerned that a continuation of federal eviction moratoriums through September 30 would cripple rental housing providers and worsen the nation’s housing affordability crisis: According to the Census Household Pulse Survey, 19 percent of renters are currently unable to pay rent and, if that number remains steady, rent owed could amount to an additional $87.4 billion by the end of September. Instead, we believe the federal government has an important role to play in supporting additional rental assistance.”

The letter stated the additional financial support is urgently needed to prevent displacement, stabilize millions of Americans who continue to struggle under the weight of COVID-19 financial impacts and ensure rental housing providers can continue operations and keep their residents housed. In addition, it was noted that “Moody’s Analytics estimates that by the end of 2020, more than 11 million renters owed close to $70 billion in rent arrears. Adding utility payments in arrears, the average household owes $6,000. Without additional robust, direct rental assistance – beyond the newly proposed $25 billion – housing providers may never fully recover outstanding debt – whether through the eviction process or otherwise – and the housing affordability crisis will be exacerbated in the long- and short-term.”

What You Need To Know Now That Withdrawn Listings Expire

You may recall IRES did some clean-up of old Withdrawn listings in December, expiring them on their contract expiration date.  That process involved thousands of listings that had been sitting in limbo as Withdrawn.

From this point forward all Withdrawn listings will expire per the contract expiration date entered, and this means users need to be wary of “prospecting Expireds” and Withdrawn listings.

Best practices

  • Avoid sign crossing by doing your homework!  
  • Check listing History for all Withdrawn or Expired listings by address and/or MLS number. Has it been relisted, under contract, or sold?   Review the dates and current status.
  • If you are the listing broker and get a new contract with an adjusted price, before you withdraw the original listing to enter a new one, consider entering a comment in Broker Remarks to alert other subscribers such as, “Relisted in February” and include the new MLS# for reference whenever possible. 
    • Note that Cumulative Days on Market (CDOM) will continue to tally unless the property has been off the market for 30 days or more. 

Definitions

Withdrawn Definition: The listing agreement is still valid between the client and the listing office.

There may be a reason the home is no longer being offered on the market, but this does not negate the contract between the parties. Alternatively, the homeowner may still want the listing agent to sell the home, but the property is temporarily not for sale. This typically happens when a homeowner needs extra time to get things in order before showings resume. Because the listing agent still has an agreement with the seller, another agent should not contact the seller in an attempt to gain them as a client.

Expired Definition: The listing contract expired or was terminated between the agent and the seller.

PRO TIP: When considering either Withdrawn or Expired listings, always check IRESis.com to verify the property hasn’t been relisted.