Polis signs bill banning residential occupancy limits in Colorado into law

The law will take effect on July 1.
Governor signs bill.jpg
Posted at 5:37 PM, Apr 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-16 16:44:50-04

DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed a bill aimed at ending “discriminatory” rules that limit how many unrelated people can live together into law.

“It's none of the government's business,” Polis said. “If they get along and they're roommates and they want to be able to have their leases and live there together, of course, Coloradans should be able to do so.”

House Bill 24-1007, also known as the HOME (Harmonizing Occupancy Measures Equitably) Act, prohibits local governments from limiting the number of unrelated people living together under the same roof.

As she watched the governor sign the bill into law on the west steps of the State Capitol, Denver resident Sarah Wells couldn’t help but get emotional.

“We've been working on legislation like this since we moved into our house nine years ago and have been living illegally all of that time,” said Wells.

Wells lives in a housing co-op.

“I live in my home with my husband and our four-and-a-half-year-old son. And there are seven other adults who live with us,” Wells said.

Wells said her roommates include teachers, interpreters, and civil servants who, like many others in Colorado, can’t afford to live alone.

“A lot of those folks are staying with us and living with us and have become member-owners of our cooperative because we provide affordable rent,” said Wells.

In many cities, including Denver, there are limits on how many unrelated people can live under one roof. Some lawmakers believe such occupancy limits are a form of discrimination.

“Discriminatory occupancy limits prevent us from living with the people that we choose to live with,” said State Rep. Manny Rutinel, one of the bill’s sponsors.

Polis signs bill banning residential occupancy limits in Colorado into law

Rutinel also noted that many Latino families may be discriminated against because they live with distant relatives.

“I'm excited that this bill will finally allow us to legalize roommates," said Rutinel. "It's as simple as that."

Polis said the legislation provides one more way to increase affordability.

“This is one of many comprehensive steps Colorado is taking to ensure Coloradans can live in the communities they choose, near jobs and transit hubs. I thank the sponsors for their work on this legislation to create more housing options Coloradans can afford,” Polis said.

When the bill was making its way through the legislature, opponents argued it would have unintended consequences.

“This is going to increase the rents. It’s not going to help the people you think it’s going to help,” said State Sen. Janice Rich, a Republican who represents Delta and Mesa counties.

In the end, those concerns were not enough to stop the bill from passing and being sent to the governor’s desk.

After nine years of fearing the city would force everyone in her home to move, Wells said she finally feels relieved.

“In my life and for a lot of people, it will make a big difference,” she said.

According to the bill, local governments will still be able to implement some occupancy limits based on "demonstrated health and safety standards, such as international building code standards, fire code regulations, or Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment wastewater and water quality standards; or local, state, federal, or political subdivision affordable housing program guidelines."

The law will take effect on July 1.

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