Adam McCoyAdam McCoyFebruary 15, 20183min2006

Erik Soliván’s expertise was going to bring a fresh perspective to the city’s approach to the affordable housing crisis, Mayor Michael Hancock said one year ago.

Soliván took over at the helm at Denver’s new Office of Housing and Opportunities for People Everywhere or HOPE just over a year ago, but the city leader often referred to as the “housing czar” is now out, 9news reports.

In his letter of resignation obtained by 9news and dated Feb 12, Soliván articulates the progress made in Denver, but doesn’t detail why he’s leaving the agency.

“A strategy for looking at housing as a single continuum from homelessness to homeownership was launched, an innovative program that brought foundations, employers and the city – LIVE Denver – was created and announced, a successful eviction diversion mediation program was collaboratively designed with the Courts and implemented, a comprehensive Tenant-Landlord Guide was produced, published and announced, and a five year-housing plan, with unanimous consent of the Housing Advisory Committee, laid a platform for implementing the strategy and changing the city’s approach to these pressing issues,” Soliván said in the letter.

Soliván does however note a reorganization within the Office of Economic Development. As the Denver Business Journal reported on Monday, Denver has started a search for a “chief housing officer” as part of the reorganization.

The new post — which will be responsible for managing a $20 million budget and providing leadership on affordable housing — was created to counter “the booming population and increasing focus on the affordable housing needs of Denver residents.”

“I support the reorganization of the Office of Economic Development, and it will better position the city to tackle complex issues, execute, and support initiatives,” Soliván noted in his resignation letter.

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Peter MarcusMay 23, 20176min354

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Tuesday signed legislation marking the most significant progress on construction defect litigation reform since the debate began at least four years ago.

One of the thorniest issues in the legislature, the bill signing also signaled one of the assembly’s greatest achievements this year, striking a deal that begins to get to reform.

The legislation requires a majority of homeowners in an association to approve a lawsuit and provide disclosure to homeowners of a proposed suit.

“This new law establishes a fair and balanced process for settlement of construction defects claims without infringing on Coloradans’ ability to protect what for most of them is their single biggest investment – their homes,” said Rep. Alec Garnett, D-Denver, who led many of the talks and helped build a grand bargain.

In previous years, talks on the issue have broken down. Negotiations were precarious through much of the process this year as well. But in April, a compromise was reached, which lawmakers rolled out with all the pomp and circumstance of a press conference.

Hickenlooper signed the bill Tuesday afternoon at the Capitol, after it received a unanimous vote in the legislature.

The conversation involved a wide berth of stakeholders, including developers, the business community, homeowners and local elected officials.

“We are pleased that we were able to find a compromise aimed at encouraging more condo development while protecting consumers, but keep in mind that this is the first step in a long process and it is not a silver bullet,” said Kathie Barstnar, co-chair of the Homeownership Opportunity Alliance, which led talks for developers, business interests and local officials.

At one point this year, conversations became so complicated that sponsors of the measure essentially declared an impasse. The effort was partly held up by a few short words in the legislation, which addresses a pause in the time homeowners have to file a lawsuit under a statute of limitations.

The clock would pause up to a 90-day voting and disclosure period as a homeowners’ association decides whether to file a lawsuit.

The bill – as with all construction defect measures – aims at spurring housing development by relaxing concerns from developers over expensive lawsuits. Hickenlooper said the victory is almost psychological for homebuilders.

In addition to Garnett, House Bill 1279 was also sponsored by Rep. Lori Saine, R-Firestone. In the Senate it was sponsored by Democratic Leader Lucia Guzman of Denver and Sen. Jack Tate of Centennial.

“Innovation, teamwork and bipartisanship are alive and well at the Capitol and were essential to the passage of House Bill 1279,” said House Assistant Republican Leader Cole Wist of Centennial, who also played a major role in negotiations. “While this bill will not cure all of our state’s problems with respect to runaway construction litigation, it is a huge step in the right direction.”

Even homeowners, who had feared they might lose access to their day in court to fight shoddy development, applauded passage of the legislation.

“With the governor’s signature on House Bill 1279, homeowners can breathe a sigh of relief that the ongoing fight over construction defect law has finally come to an end,” said  Jonathan Harris, with Build Our Homes Right.

Other efforts this year, however, did not cross the finish line, including a piece of legislation that legislative leaders – including House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, and Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, had sponsored this year.

The measure, Senate Bill 45, would have aimed at equitably dividing litigation defense costs. The idea was to lower insurance rates, which would decrease costs for developers. The concept was highlighted in opening day speeches in the legislature.

But it was opposed by the very groups it was intended to help, including developers, and the bill died.

Still, lawmakers can say they are walking away with a win by pushing House Bill 1279 across the finish line.

“I am pleased that in one of the most productive sessions I have had the pleasure of working in, we finally made a breakthrough on the construction defects issue,” Guzman said. “This bill strikes an important balance that shields honest homebuilders and protects the rights of homeowners.”

Peter MarcusApril 19, 20177min332
A grand compromise reached late Tuesday night on construction defect litigation reform paved the way for a measure to sail through its first hearing Wednesday. By Wednesday afternoon, legislative leaders and bill sponsors were ready to declare victory, suggesting that meaningful construction defect reform is inevitable. A bipartisan group of lawmakers and stakeholders celebrated at a […]

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Mike McKibbinMike McKibbinApril 14, 20177min372

A year after a Denver auditor's report found a nonprofit provider of services to the mentally and developmentally disabled residents of the City and County of Denver had mismanaged city funds, the picture is much better, City Council members were recently told. Rocky Mountain Human Services, formerly called Denver Options, serves over 6,000 Colorado residents through case management and direct service programs.


Mike McKibbinMike McKibbinApril 7, 20177min424

Two City and County of Denver commissions will be busy this year, if recent actions by the federal government regarding minorities continue, a City Council committee was recently told by commission members. The Denver Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Queer (LGBTQ) Commission works to advance social, economic and political equality for lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people, according to a one-page presentation to the Safety, Housing, Education & Homelessness Committee.


Paula NoonanPaula NoonanApril 7, 20175min545
Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

Colorado’s population in 1992 was 3.5 million. Census projections put the state’s population in 2017 at 5.5 million. In 1992, 812,308 citizens — 53.68 percent of voters — said yes to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), and 700,906 citizens — 46.32 percent of voters — said no.

Not to make too fine a point, but the 1.5 million 1992 voters on TABOR would comprise 27 percent of today’s population. And many of those 1.5 million people are no longer living in Colorado. Yet here we are, 25 years later, juggling TABOR limitations at the Capitol.

As background, the state in 1992 was in a deep recession from the oil and real estate bust of the 1980s. Front Range citizens especially were in an economic pit.

Downtown Denver was a dump: no Coors Field, no Pepsi Center, no new Mile High Stadium, no new Auraria Campus, no lightrail, no fancy Union Station, no pedestrian bridge over to the Highlands, no condos in LoDo or RiNo, downtown shopping fleeing to the suburbs, and prominent Denver retail names gone bankrupt.

Colorado Springs was hit hard as its real estate expansion of the ’80s died. Banks were on the brink of going out of business across the state.

After the anti-tax 1992 TABOR vote, Denver metro citizens did a 180-degree reverse and voted to build Denver International Airport. Then citizens voted for Coors Field and Mile High Stadium. With help from Gov. Bill Owens, RTD got a tax for light rail.

These investments set the stage for Colorado’s current economic vibrancy. The investments occurred based on a good feature of TABOR — let the people decide what projects and programs merit their money. Yet TABOR’s bad features, still in place, are wreaking havoc on the state’s budget.

Senator Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, was among five legislators who voted against SB-254, the budget appropriations Long Bill. He’s asking people to take a long view back and forward: “It’s a vote to raise the TABOR issue once again. We’re not funding our schools, oil and gas inspectors, renewable energy, or filling in gaps from cuts from D.C.”

It’s esoteric for newcomers to know that Colorado’s current budget is based on the 2009-2010 recession years due to TABOR. “Unlike other states, because of TABOR’s ratchet down effect, Colorado doesn’t get to make up for downturns and come back,” says Kerr.

When the state gins up more tax revenues, as it has, the budget base doesn’t move up. Its budget level continues at the 2009-2010 recession point, forcing refunds of extra tax dollars.

The Hospital Provider Reimbursement Fee portrays the problem. The health care fees, considered a tax, push state revenues above TABOR limits. The Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee put up SB17-256 to reduce provider fees by $264 million, which causes an additional $264 million loss in federal matching funds.

The provider fee reimburses hospitals for delivering care to people who can’t pay. Without the fee, some hospitals, particularly in rural counties, don’t have enough money to operate. When those hospitals close, uninsured and insured alike lose care.

Four Democratic Senators, Irene Aguilar, Kerry Donovan, Matt Jones and Andy Kerr, and Republican Sen. Owen Hill, voted against the budget Long Bill. Also affected by TABOR is the ongoing $880 million annual negative factor that lowers public K-12 education spending. House members get to vote next.

So the question is, when will today’s citizens get the chance to vote on tax policy for today?


Earl WrightEarl WrightMarch 24, 20175min868

Colorado is facing an affordable housing crisis as both the demand and the cost of entry-level homes continues to skyrocket, while housing construction, particularly in the areas of condominiums, remains largely nonexistent. Some have argued the absence of affordable housing construction, which condominiums and starter single-family homes provide, is simply due to a lack of demand.