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Counties and towns could get first dibs on real estate thanks to a new bill

The Colorado State Capitol columns with the American flag flying above.
Lucas Brady Woods
The State Capitol is pictured here on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. A new bill at the State Capitol would give counties and municipalities the right of first refusal when certain residential or mixed-use real estate goes up for sale.

House Bill 1190 would give counties and municipalities the 'right of first refusal' when residential or mixed-use real estate goes up for sale. That means they would have priority over private buyers to make the first offer if they want to purchase certain properties.

Bill sponsor Rep. Andrew Boesenecker says this will help towns and counties turn existing real estate into affordable housing.

"To suggest that there is only one way out of this—and that is to build our way out of it— ignores the fact that we lose more affordable housing than we could ever build," Boesenecker said, in reference to the redevelopment of existing affordable housing by for-profit buyers. "And once that affordable housing is gone, it becomes immensely difficult, costly, to build that affordable housing again."

For a building to be eligible for a local government's right of first refusal, it must include at least five residential units in a city and three residential units in a rural community or resort town. Boesenecker also said the bill allows owners to sell real estate at competitive rates while preserving existing properties and adding affordable housing.

"This is housing for teachers. This is housing for folks who work in our grocery stores, for law enforcement officers," Boesenecker said. "These are folks who would otherwise have to travel long distances to live in the community that they want to live in, and ultimately, serve."

Critics say local governments are already able to bid on real estate. They are concerned the bill will slow down property sales and drive away private and commercial buyers.

"Under current law, nothing is stopping local governments from competing with private offers to purchase real estate," said Adam Burg with the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. "This bill would tip the scales and prevent competitive offers from being considered in favor of local governments, who can slow walk the process and would delay affordable housing development when we need it the most."

The bill was approved by the House Transportation, Housing and Local Government committee this week and will get a preliminary vote next week.

I’m the Statehouse Reporter at KUNC, which means I help make sense of the latest developments at the Colorado State Capitol. I cover the legislature, the governor, and government agencies.
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