Gov. Polis approves bill that relaxes local regulations for ‘mother-in-law flats’ in Colorado

Coloradans could potentially witness an increase in the presence of “mother-in-law flats” or “casitas” in their neighborhoods following the recent enactment of new reforms.

In a recent media release, Governor Jared Polis expressed his support for a new law that grants homeowners the freedom to construct accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The passing of House Bill 24-1152 ensures that certain local municipalities must permit the building of these units, while also outlining requirements and limitations for the administrative processes of local governments. Additionally, the bill allocates $8.6 million to multiple agencies for the upcoming fiscal year and $2.4 million for fiscal year 2025-2026.

The Department of Local Affairs’ housing division has implemented a certification and grant program through the recently passed bill. This program aims to promote the construction, conversion, and utilization of ADUs. To be eligible for this program, municipalities must have a population of at least 1,000 and include census-designated areas with a minimum of 10,000 residents within a metropolitan planning organization. The bill received overwhelming support, passing with a vote of 61-3 in the House and progressing further with a 20-15 vote in the Senate.

In a statement, the governor expressed pride in the collaborative efforts to address the housing cost issue in Colorado. He highlighted the demand for solutions that would make housing more affordable for Coloradans. According to him, accessory dwelling units offer a cost-effective option to expand housing choices in the state.

According to a recent ranking by the Common Sense Institute, Colorado was ranked last among all 50 states and the District of Columbia earlier this year.

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According to a survey conducted by Magellan Strategies in the previous year, the majority of participants – 73% to be precise – expressed their desire for local governments to take more decisive measures in the realm of affordable housing. Furthermore, these respondents did not believe that the existing affordable housing and land use policies in their communities were effective or heading in the right direction. In addition to this, 67% of the participants stated that they believed the state government should play a more active role in addressing the issue of affordable housing.

The new law mandates that local governments must permit the construction of one accessory dwelling in areas where single-unit detached homes are allowed. Moreover, the law explicitly prohibits the enforcement of additional parking regulations or the mandate that the accessory dwelling must be inhabited by the owner.

The law mandates that local administrative processes should only utilize objective standards. It also prohibits the imposition of design or dimension standards that are more stringent than those applicable to single-unit detached dwellings in the same zoning district.

The Colorado Economic Development Commission has been given the authority to allocate up to $8 million to the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority. This allocation is intended to support the development of accessory dwelling units in certified and supportive jurisdictions. The funds can be utilized to provide affordable loans and assistance with down payments, thereby encouraging the growth of such units.

The bill allocates $5 million to establish a dedicated cash fund for a recently introduced grant program. This program aims to support jurisdictions that actively promote the construction of accessory dwelling units. The funds from this grant can be utilized to cover various expenses, such as reducing permitting fees, providing technical assistance, or offsetting costs associated with pre-approved plans and other development-related expenses.

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According to Governor Polis, the people of Colorado are highly supportive of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). He expressed his appreciation for the work done by the bill sponsors and emphasized that this legislation provides Coloradans with the freedom to build ADUs on their own property, should they choose to do so. Governor Polis is excited to witness Coloradans taking advantage of this newfound freedom.

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