Colorado is presently considering Ballot Initiative 66 which would limit all new construction permits all along the Front Range to no more than 1% of existing housing stock. A ballot initiative is a proposed new law sponsored by citizens – it does not originate from elected officials at the state legislature. This is an effort to limit growth in Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer, and Weld Counties. Initially, the 1% cap on new construction permits would remain in place for 2019 and 2020. After 2020, the 1% cap would remain in place unless 5% of the voters in a jurisdiction put a successful initiative to a vote to remove the new construction cap.
The 1% new construction cap would apply to home and apartment construction, but not commercial, office, or industrial construction. There is already a shortage of homes and apartment housing available in the Denver Metro Area. Limiting new construction will only drive up prices of the existing inventory and make the area less affordable. Denver, Douglas and Weld counties will be the hardest hit by Ballot Initiative 66 and those counties have issued construction permits above 2% of existing housing stock. In other words, new construction permits in Denver, Douglas, and Weld counties will be effectively cut in half if Ballot Initiative 66 is approved by voters in November.
Ballot Initiative 66 is being reviewed by the Colorado Supreme Court. At the outset, there does not seem to be anything unconstitutional about Ballot Initiative 66. It is not taking private property without due process or compensation. Moreover, the new home and apartment construction restriction seems like a reasonable exercise of municipal police power to protect the health, safety, and welfare of citizens. So, Ballot Initiative 66 may make onto the November 2018 ballot, but should Colorado voters adopt it?
At least one study by Shift Research Labs estimates that the Denver metro area will have a shortfall of 32,000 homes in 2018 due to shortages in new construction. The new construction cap would exacerbate this shortage for likely years to come and continue to drive up home prices and rents. The impact of new construction on traffic, infrastructure, schools, etc. is most felt at the local level. Shouldn’t each town or city decide whether to impose a cap on new construction and what that limit should be? Why should voters in parts of the state not subject to the proposed 1% new construction cap cast what could be a deciding vote on the fate of new construction in the front range communities?
Keep an eye on Ballot Initiative 66 in Colorado. I’ll post more as the initiative progresses towards a November vote.