Colorado Legislature’s 2024 Housing Solutions and their Impact on Jeffco

Local and state policies impact efforts to reduce housing costs in Jefferson County (Jeffco). In 2024, the Colorado legislature passed several Colorado affordable housing bills that will have immediate and long-term impacts on housing costs in Jeffco. This work built on the groundwork laid in previous legislative sessions. Recent legislation will change land use and zoning, as well as affordable housing production and maintenance. This factsheet reviews a few important bills and discusses possible consequences in Jeffco.

Land Use and Zoning

Changes in land use and zoning codes offer opportunities to reduce housing costs by increasing housing density and production. Legislators moved forward a few bills, trying to thread the needle of maintaining local control over zoning while making sure we can all enjoy more affordable housing options in Colorado. 

HB24-1313: Housing in Transit-Oriented Communities increases zoning density around transit sites, such as bus stops or light rail stations. It removes barriers that limit housing density to encourage building more housing near transit sites. In Jeffco, the bill applies to Lakewood, Arvada, Edgewater, Westminster, Wheat Ridge, and Golden. Other areas could opt-in but are not required to achieve these transit-related housing goals. 

As a result of the bill, cities will need to look at developable property close to rail lines or high-frequency buses as well as future transit lines. Then, the state will set housing opportunity goals based on these transit areas. Cities must meet these housing goals, but they can decide where and how. If Lakewood, for example, prefers to maintain lower density at most transit sites, they could concentrate the increased density in one or two areas or spread this density out along many transit sites. In some cases, developing around planned transit lines might be easier, which the bill allows and hopes to encourage further transit. Cities will have until 2026 to determine their plan for meeting established housing goals.

To better support the creation of affordable housing in transit-oriented communities, HB24-1434 provides tax credits for this purpose. These credits will be available through 2029.

Another bill HB24-1152: Accessory Dwelling Units removes restrictions on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and provides funding to local governments and households to encourage further construction. ADUs are secondary dwellings on the same lot as homes and are known by other names like granny units. They’re typically pretty small (500-800 square feet) and built in backyards, on top of garages. ADUs can be built at relatively lower cost and greater speed. They’re often used for intergenerational housing, to supplement income for households on fixed incomes, or affordable rental options. They’re also energy efficient compared to single family homes and utilize existing water, sewer, and electricity lines. 

HB24-1152 applies to similar parts of Jeffco as the transit bill. Places like Golden and Lakewood already allow ADUs. Other metro areas in Jeffco will now be required to allow this housing option for its residents. However, there are exceptions for HOAs and high-fire danger areas. Obviously, the impact of the bill depends on the uptake by homeowners. 

A total of $13 million was allocated through HB24-1152 to support the construction of ADUs. These funds can be used for a variety of purposes. These purposes include providing down-payment assistance and low-cost loans to help individuals finance ADUs as well as funds to help governments reduce permitting, planning, and other development costs.

Another land use and zoning bill that passed is SB24-174: Sustainable Affordable Housing Assistance. This bill applies widely across Jeffco as it requires local governments with 1,000 people or more to develop a housing action plan by 2028. These action plans will be guide maps for housing needs throughout each jurisdiction and provide strategies for filling these gaps. The state government will prioritize housing-related grants to local communities that complete an action plan every six years. 

State legislators sought to encourage housing plans for local communities without imposing mandates as in previous legislative sessions. This approach should work well in directing housing needs assessments and plans in Jeffco, building on existing best practices in the county like the Jefferson County Consolidated Plan.

Affordable Housing Production and Maintenance

The legislature also took steps to increase the production and maintenance of affordable housing. If signed by the governor, HB24-1175: Local Governments Rights to Property for Affordable Housing will provide local governments in Jeffco with the ‘right of first refusal or offer’ to purchase multifamily properties when they’re set to enter the market. In effect, local governments could decide if they want to continue operating affordable housing developments or buy new ones before they enter the open market. If Jeffco governments elect to skip re-upping or purchasing an affordable housing development, then the property proceeds to the open market as normal. This prioritization of affordable housing aligns with Jeffco residents’ consistently rating housing as a number one issue in polling. 

Conclusion

The Colorado legislature took significant steps this session to reduce housing costs and improve conditions. Bills that address land use and zoning reform and affordable housing production and maintenance will be instrumental in unlocking new tools for Jeffco officials and advocates. This legislation can also build on ongoing efforts by Jeffco officials and advocates.