Regulatory policy

Fort Collins leaders split over road to tenancy policy reforms

Months of surveys, a task force and other community engagements regarding planned changes to Fort Collins’ rental housing policies show that the majority of the community wants to see change.

Rental regulations and occupancy limitations are no small feat in the city — more than 40% of homes in Fort Collins are occupied by renters.

To better understand how potential rental programs and changes to the status quo would impact tenants and landlords, the city surveyed landlords, tenants and landlords in general about what they would like to see happen. He also formed a working group of landlords, industry professionals and tenants to discuss policies and make suggestions to council.

Of all the respondents who took the city’s rental strategies survey, 60% felt that something needed to change in the way the city regulates rentals.

City staff came to council on Tuesday with the recommendation — based on community feedback — to look more at a tenancy registration program rather than a licensing program to address the desire for change.

The majority of respondents to the city’s rental regulation survey, 56%, felt landlords should register their properties with the city, while 50% of respondents felt they should obtain a license from the city. city ​​to rent out their properties.

As you might expect, these options were significantly less popular among owners who responded to the survey and would have to pay a fee for registration or a license. Of the responding owners, 78% felt they shouldn’t need a license to operate and 69% felt they shouldn’t need to register their properties.

Marcy Yoder, neighborhood services manager who helped present the information to council, said that while council members had previously expressed more interest in licensing, “when they entered the community there was more support for registration than licensing. ”

What is the difference between rental license and registration?

The main difference between a rental registration and a rental licensing program, Yoder explained, is that the license allows for greater enforcement and would likely include additional inspection elements.

“(Registration is) getting information about where these rentals are, who owns them, how they are managed, so that it becomes easier to understand our own market,” she said. . “Licensing then gives you an additional application if you don’t get voluntary compliance along the way.”

Both programs would have an inspection element, according to Meaghan Overton, housing manager for the city, but licensing would allow the city to return to inspect problem properties.

The cost to the city would be similar for both programs, Yoder said, adding that starting either would cost about $350,000 and increase to $450,000 next year. The cost to owners of a license or registration would be “a nominal fee”, Yoder said, but additional costs would come depending on how the inspections – which would accompany the licensing program – are conducted.

Among landlords who engaged with the city, potential costs were identified as a downside of a licensing and inspection program, and most tenancy managers said they would pass the costs on to tenants. The owners also felt that the city was unclear about what problem it was trying to solve with this program and said they would prefer that inspections continue solely on the basis of complaints rather than becoming proactive by the town.

Homeowners interviewed expressed concern about what they’ve heard happening in other cities – from Boulder to Minneapolis – about regulations becoming “crushing” for homeowners and the city viewing the regulations as “a tax grab.” ‘silver”.

Based on survey responses, the working group assembled to provide input on these issues determined that it would be best for the city to establish a mandatory tenancy registration program and “continue inspections of tenancies based on complaints with an emphasis on habitability (health and safety).”

For subscribers:Young Fort Collins tenants caught in an unaffordable cycle as costs rise

Council sees need to protect tenants, but has failed to reach consensus on what is best

Council member Kelly Ohlson was adamantly against tenancy registration, saying there was nothing to be gained from it, while licensing gives the city “control and consequences if the people are bad players.”

Council members Tricia Canonico and Susan Gutowsky said licensing would be a better route, in part because it would allow more inspections and give tenants more agency.

“I think it’s imperative that we have a way for landlords to be responsible for the safety of tenants and I think the best way would be to issue licenses,” Gutowsky said, adding that a registration method in which owners register their properties and the city demands that they be good will not produce results.

Canonico said she was leaning towards licensing because she thought there was a risk of confusion among landlords if the city took “a tiered approach” from registration to licensing. licenses rather than being consistent with a tactic.

Mayor Pro Tem Emily Francis has said she is in favor of a registration or licensing scheme and while she hasn’t looked too far into it anyway, she feels something needs to be implemented .

“As a city, we have fallen behind in protecting the rights and standards of habitability and safety in a home, especially when we think about the cost of housing and how we want families to be able to have access to safe and stable housing,” she says. “I think we really need to explore a mandatory registration or licensing program.”

Francis said she was concerned that having nothing to license would be a “zero to 100” business, and board member Julie Pignataro agreed. Pignataro said she would be more comfortable having a registry as “a first step with the intention of seeing if licensing is where we want to go.”

Mayor Jeni Arndt and Councilwoman Shirley Peel also said the city should implement a registration program before moving to licensing.

Peel said she was not ready to implement the licenses, but was “ok with registering for a nominal fee”, while Arndt expressed concern about the possibility of implement the licenses, which would require additional inspection costs, due to the number of competing city budget items. already considering.

“I don’t know how we would ever manage to have an effective licensing program in place with inspections on top of our code inspections, certificate of occupancy, everything else,” she said.

Council will continue discussions on rent regulation as it grapples with potential updates to the city’s 25-year-old land use code, another effort closely tied to housing affordability issues .

Related:Home prices in Fort Collins continue to rise, but rising mortgage rates are changing the market

Molly Bohannon covers city government for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @molboha or contact her at [email protected] Support his work and that of other Colorado journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.