BARA Members: the home size restriction battle in Boulder is heating up and now is the time for action. For more see “Proposed Home Size Restrictions Wrongheaded and Unnecessary” below. Check out the www.leavemyhomealonne.org Website.
• Officials Ignoring Economic Downturn And Local Impacts
• Proposed Home Size Restrictions Wrongheaded and Unnecessary
• Commissioners Approve Alternative Energy Code Amendments
• CAR Directors Approve Changes To Political Structure
• Links To Information On New State Laws
• State Budget Update
• Obama Administration Announces Financial Regulatory Reform Plan
• Senate Committee Approves Wetlands Expansion Bill
• New NAR Short Sales Page
• National Health Care Reform Debate Begins In Earnest
City of Boulder
OFFICIALS IGNORING ECONOMIC DOWNTURN AND LOCAL IMPACTS
While virtually every community in the metro area is seeking ways to spur economic activity and bolster sagging tax revenue, the City of Boulder appears to be ignoring economic realities and is forging ahead on a number of fronts that will significantly increase the costs borne by residents, businesses, and development. On example of economic incentive activity is the City and County of Denver’s recent action to suspend building permit fees. By contrast, the City of Boulder recently moved ahead with increased development fees and it plans to raise them further in the future. In fact, the city decided to convert certain business/development taxes to fees so they can be raised without voter approval. Home Size Regulations under consideration will produce significant hardship for Boulder families and threatens to erode their already battered home equity and property rights. (More on this below.) The City doubled the two year old Carbon Tax and is moving rapidly toward developing regulation mandating costly energy improvement in homes apartments and commercial buildings. It appears that the 20% inclusionary zoning (IZ) requirement for affordable housing will stay in place. The City is planning to double the in lieu fees to opt out of half the IZ requirement. The increases to as much as $230,000 for single family residences and $220,000 for attached dwellings will be phased in over several years. Business folks are also upset with a proposal to increase the Housing Excise Tax on non-residential development from 49 cents per square foot to $2.50 per square foot, and then increase it annually to adjust for inflation. Finally, Council is actively considering imposing new and/or significantly higher impact fees on development. All this against the backdrop of declining city revenue of $5.4 million this year with larger deficits expected in 2010. This is the same Council that has been asking voters to increase their compensation for the past two years. Many leaders in the community are wondering “What are they thinking?”
PROPOSED HOME SIZE RESTRICTIONS WRONGHEADED AND UNNECESSARY
The time for action to oppose these regulations is NOW.
A group of citizens and homeowners recently organized to fight the home size restriction under the name “Leave My Home Alone!” (Check out their Website at www.leavemyhomealone.org. Sign in to join and make a contribution to help get the message out.) Planning Board will act on these regulations on Thursday, July 9, 2009 beginning at 6PM. City Council could take final action as early as August 4, 2009. Realtors® are urged to provide the talking points below to their clients, customers and distribution lists and ask them to contact Planning Board and City Council directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Every homeowner in Boulder needs to tell Planning Board and City Council to Leave My Home Alone!
• A Solution in Search of a Problem
The proposed Pops and Scrapes regulations are a solution in search of a problem. A majority of Boulder citizens do not believe there is a major problem with residential additions and remodels. The very few examples of “ugly homes” that have been put forth do not warrant such a sweeping and Draconian regulatory response across the entire City.
• The Proposed Regulations are Too Extreme and Too Complex
The proposed regulations are extreme, highly complex and a dramatic over-reaction to the perceived problem. If new regulations must be enacted (which is highly questionable), they should be simple, incremental changes to the regulations already in place today. Those simple, incremental changes should then be given adequate time to work and see if they solve the perceived problem before any additional or more restrictive regulations are considered. There is no justification to use a sledge hammer to try to kill a fly.
• The Proposed Regulations are Unfair
The proposed regulations would unfairly restrict the right of Boulder citizens to build additions to or remodel their homes and would unfairly decrease property values. The proposed regulations are a “one-size fits all” approach that goes too far and would prohibit many types of appropriate additions and remodels. The proposed regulations would have a disproportionate impact on relatively modest neighborhoods like Martin Acres, Aurora 7, West Highlands and Columbine. If families can’t grow in their homes, they will move elsewhere, thereby exacerbating the loss of families with children in Boulder and the declining enrollment in Boulder’s schools.
• The Proposed Regulations Will Have Unintended Consequences
Rather than preventing “ugly homes,” the proposed regulations would have prohibited many of Boulder’s architectural gems and would ensure that all future additions and remodels will be done in a manner that results in a homogenous and architecturally-uninteresting “sameness” across Boulder. The last thing Boulder needs is for the City government to be the de facto HOA for Boulder. Boulder’s middle-income housing affordability problem would be exacerbated because it would no longer be possible for families to purchase smaller, more affordable homes and then grow within them through addition and remodeling. By penalizing citizens who want to build an addition or remodel, the City would greatly reduce the rate at which existing homes are modernized and made more energy-efficient.
• City Council is Ignoring the Majority of Boulder’s Citizens
The vast majority of Boulder’s citizens do not support the proposed regulations or anything like them. City Council has been pursuing its own agenda and that of a very small minority of disgruntled people from a very few select neighborhoods. The process has been unfairly stacked to try to justify the outcome Council announced it wanted to pursue over a year ago. Council has failed to learn from the outpouring of opposition to this effort they received in the spring of 2008, and now they are trying to “put lipstick on the pig” and fool the voters through the City’s biased public relations campaign and loaded terminology.
COMMISSIONERS APPROVE ALTERNATIVE ENERGY CODE AMENDMENTS
The Boulder County Commissioners approved amendments to the Land Use Code that will allow the construction of 80 foot tall wind generators in residential zones after a site plan review. The Commissioners also approved larger solar collectors but the size of the area disturbed (if located at ground level) will dictate the type of review required. Commissioner Will Toor voted against the amendments because he felt the requirements were too restrictive. Note: The amendments will be considered by resolution on June 30th and if approved, will become law on that date. For more information visit:
CAR DIRECTORS APPROVE CHANGES TO POLITICAL STRUCTURE
By a 155-15 vote, CAR Directors approved the creation of the Political Survival Committee, a 17-member group of Realtors from throughout the State to create and implement the Association’s political strategies, allocate PSF dollars and approve local association fund requests. Local associations will retain 10 percent of PSF funds raised and 30 percent of the existing $10 member special assessment for issues. Local associations can request more if needed. The creation of the PSC was based on a recommendation by a PAG (presidential advisory committee) and legal consultants specializing in Colorado campaign law. A transition team (former CAR presidents Kay Watson and Chris McElroy) will assist President Amy Dorsey in appointing PSC members. More information will be forthcoming.
LINKS TO INFORMATION ON NEW STATE LAWS:
STATE BUDGET UPDATE
Earlier this week, the Legislative Council and the Office of State Planning and Budgeting (OSPB) presented their economic forecasts to the Joint Budget Committee. Both forecasts predict further budget shortfalls in Colorado, and General Fund revenues will not support current General Fund appropriations for Fiscal Years 2008-09 and 2009-10. Legislative Council’s economists predict a $249 million shortfall for FY 2008-09, and OSPB anticipates that figure to be $256 million. Senate Bill 09-279 allows for the transfer of funds to cover existing General Fund obligations for FY 2008-09, which must be repaid July 1, 2009, so the budget shortfall will be addressed in the 2009-10 fiscal year. Although General Fund revenue is expected to increase 6.8 percent in FY 2010-11, revenue available for spending the General Fund will decrease 2.4 percent because several one-time sources of revenue will either be reduced or will no longer be available.
Overall, $873 million will need to be cut from the budget over the next 24 months. These figures come in on top of the $1.2 billion that legislators cut from the FY 2008-09 and FY 2009-10 budgets during the legislative session.
According to the economic forecast, Colorado’s economy is expected to begin gradually improving toward the end of 2009 and during 2010, but the recovery is anticipated to be a very long and slow process. The state’s is expected to lose 85,000 jobs during 2009, a 3.6 percent drop from 2008, bringing the unemployment rate to 8.3 percent for the year. Job losses are expected to begin to moderate in the last part of 2009; however, the state’s unemployment rate is expected to continue increasing to 9.6 percent in 2010.
Overall, the OSPB forecast is approximately $500 million more optimistic than the Legislative Council forecast, due to differing predictions on how high the unemployment rate will reach and when it will begin to recover. (CAR)
OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES FINANCIAL REGULATORY REFORM PLAN
The Obama Financial Regulatory Reform Plan, announced on June 17, 2009, would change the regulation of all lenders and their holding companies, give the Federal Reserve Board supervisory power over large and complex entities that pose a systemic risk to the financial system, create a new consumer protection agency, and provide for managing future financial crises. Key objectives include restoring consumer and investor confidence in the nation's financial system. Of particular interest to REALTORS®, the plan would strengthen the national policy against mixing banking and commerce and create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency to consolidate the regulation of consumer protection laws related to mortgage loans and other financial products, including the Truth in Lending Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. (NAR)
SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVES WETLANDS EXPANSION BILL
The Senate environment committee approved S. 787, the "Clean Water Restoration Act." The bill would strike "navigable" from the federal definition of regulated waters and replace the term with the "waters of the United States" expanding — not restoring — the definition to "all... intrastate waters, including... all tributaries... and all impoundments of the forgoing." NAR policy is opposed to federal government encroachments upon private property rights. Thanks to REALTORS®, before approving the bill, the committee made two important changes that while taking small steps in the right direction, did not resolve NAR concerns with the bill's approach. As part of an amendment by Sens. Baucus (D-MT), Klobuchar (D-MN) and Boxer (D-CA), the bill now excludes prior converted cropland and waste treatment systems from the U.S. waters definition. While still expanding the Clean Water Act's reach to non-navigable waters, the bill would not expand it to "the fullest extent that these waters, or activities affecting these waters, are subject to the legislation power of Congress" — i.e., the original language of the bill. Rather it expands the scope only to the EPA and Corps' interpretation of regulated waters on January 9, 2001, which in effect would overturn two Supreme Court decisions that reigned in federal permitting authority.
It is still early in the process, and NAR will continue to oppose S. 787 as amended and seize every opportunity to educate members of Congress about the effects that the bill will have on property rights. Next step is consideration by the Senate but the timing of this is unclear, as at least one senator is expected to place a "hold" on the legislation, signaling the intent to filibuster. A companion bill has not been introduced in the House. (NAR)
NEW NAR SHORT SALES PAGE
NAR has set up a webpage on short sales. REALTORS® who are new to short sales can learn the basics and watch webinars to increase their knowledge. The site includes information about NAR's advocacy efforts to improve the process, getting a short sale to closing, and informing buyers and sellers about the process. There is also information on the upcoming Obama Administration short sales program, which will be part of the Making Home Affordable Program. The Treasury Department is targeting the end of July for issuing guidance and uniform forms and for signing up servicers to participate in the new initiative. NAR’s Short Sales Page , or www.realtors.org/realtors/basics_short_sales?wt.mc_id=rd0041. (CAR)
NATIONAL HEALTH CARE REFORM DEBATE BEGINS IN EARNEST
Building off of two years of formal hearings and discussions, the health care reform debate has begun in earnest in Washington, D.C. Congress has set an aggressive timeline for debate with the goal of delivering a final bill to President Obama by October 15. Five committees – Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Senate Finance, House Energy and Commerce, House Education and Labor and House Ways and Means – are involved in drafting health reform legislation. In the Senate, two bills, introduced by HELP Committee Chairman, Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and Finance Chairman, Max Baucus (D-MT) respectively, will be considered and then conferenced into one bill that will be put before the full Senate. In the House, the process will be more simple as the three chairs of the respective committees, Henry Waxman (D-CA), George Miller (D-CA) and Charles Rangel (D-NY), plan to introduce a single joint measure.
As outlined, all three bills would provide the self-employed, small employers and those without employer-provided insurance with access to an Exchange that would offer an array of private insurance products that are governed by a uniform national set of rating and underwriting rules. Insurance products offered through an Exchange would available to all eligible applicants regardless of their health history, be guaranteed to be renewed, and would not contain any pre-existing condition exclusions. In addition, premiums would be set on the basis of a limited number of factors – type of policy, geographic location and age – that would not include health status or claims history. By establishing new rating rules, standardizing administrative functions and creating larger pools of insureds, proponents of the bills believe that premiums will be reduced
NAR has already submitted comments to the Senate HELP Committee on the Kennedy measure and will comment on each of the other proposals as they are released. While much remains to be determined and all proposals will be much amended, many of the elements of the NAR-supported Small Business Health Options Program Act (SHOP) have been, or are expected to be, incorporated into the drafts. (NAR)
Worth Repeating: “I just think the city’s an easy target sometimes for blame in these things.” Boulder City Council Member Susan Osborne responding to a citizen’s suggestion that city development restrictions and costs are among the reasons bidders backed out of plans to purchase and redevelop the Daily Camera building and property in downtown Boulder. (Daily Camera, July 24, 2009, Page 6A)
NAR staff, CAR staff and Regional Government Affairs Director, Barbara Koelzer, contributed to this report.