Polis threatens to veto bill that proposed rent stabilization in mobile home parks

Gov. Jared Polis has threatened to veto a bill that proposed statewide rent stabilization in mobile home parks, the bill’s sponsor said.

Rep. Andrew Boesnecker, a Fort Collins Democrat, told his House colleagues Friday night that he’s not sure why Polis wants that proposal dead, but that he sees no choice but to oblige the governor to keep alive the rest of his bill, House Bill 22-1287. The House voted to advance the bill after Democrats regretfully pulled rent stabilization.

It’s the latest of many examples since 2019 of Democratic lawmakers killing or neutering progressive policy because of opposition from the Democratic governor.

“This is the last amendment I wanted to offer, but we cannot have this bill vetoed,” Boesnecker said. “I will continue to look for a solution to this issue and … as I have said to the governor’s staff, I urge them to do the same.”

The bill is meant as a legislative response to the power imbalance in mobile home parks, which contain some of the last remaining unsubsidized affordable housing in Colorado. Mobile home residents are up against many of the same forces as everyone else struggling to maintain a foothold in this increasingly expensive state, but they also face an extra, unique challenge: they own the structures they live in but not the land, which means that when their landlords jack up rent, they cannot simply up and move somewhere cheaper. This makes them highly vulnerable to the whims of mobile home park owners, who often hail from private equity.

HB 22-1287 contains many new changes intended to benefit these vulnerable residents. The bill would make it easier for these residents to purchase their parks; compel landlords to compensate residents if they decide to redevelop a park for other uses; and, for the first time, give the attorney general authority to enforce protections.

But rent stabilization — the initial bill proposed to “prohibit a landlord from increasing rent on a mobile home lot by an amount that exceeds the greater of inflation or 3 percentage points in any 12-month period” — was the heart of the legislation. One lawmaker, Fort Collins Democratic Rep. Cathy Kipp, was in tears over its removal.

Added Boesnecker’s cosponsor, Democratic Boulder Rep. Edie Hooton, “The stories are real and they are tragic and they are happening in our communities.”

Boesnecker was clear with his colleagues that Polis is the only reason he feels he must kill rent stabilization.

“To be blunt, we have the votes. We’d have the votes tomorrow. We’d have the votes (in the Senate). So I don’t love pulling this out,” he said. “In fact, I had an uncomfortable and really disheartening conversation with our stakeholders when I broke the news of this to them earlier today.

“People will lose their homes. I have 12 people in my district, that I know of, that will be evicted next month. This problem is not going away.”

Said Republican Rep. Dan Woog of Erie, “I want to thank the governor on this one.”

Other GOP lawmakers echoed Woog’s sentiment. They have sided with critics of the bill who warn heavy-handed regulation will cause park owners to sell their properties or kick out tenants to build more lucrative apartment buildings. Some of these critics have warned the bill could be a first step toward statewide rent control, though Hooton insisted Friday night this was never the plan. There’s little evidence, anyway, that there are the votes in the current legislature to pass statewide rent control.

David Valleau, a housing attorney with the Colorado Poverty Law Project, called the Polis-inspired bill change “immensely disappointing.”

Esther Sullivan, a University of Colorado professor whose research focuses on poverty, said “it’s heartbreaking.”

“The escalating rent hikes that manufactured home park residents face are a key part of what puts their housing, their livelihoods, and their mental and physical health at risk,” Sullivan said. “We had the opportunity to stabilize that here in Colorado, and we’ve lost that now.”

Staff writer Sam Tabachnik contributed to this report.

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