Condo construction: One of three bills to boost affordable housing moves forward

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Ulibarri says he spent months working on these bills after voting against a condo-construction bill proposed last year. That bill would have provided some legal protections to developers wanting to build condos near light-rail stations. But Ulibarri felt those protections were "very extreme" and didn't do enough to protect consumers.

"I thought the concept was right, that we needed to do something to break the logjam," he says, so he committed to working with stakeholders to find a solution that would benefit consumers as well as builders -- which he thinks Senate Bill 220 does.

Ulibarri grew up in the district he now represents, where he says there's a "high rate of poverty," and spent his first few years living in a trailer home. Because of his background, he says he recognizes the need for affordable owner-occupied housing -- and currently, there's very little of it. Builders say they won't build it because of the threat of construction defect lawsuits, which they say has also driven up the cost of insurance.

If apartments and luxury homes are the only products that builders are willing to build, it means working families will be priced out of their neighborhoods, Ulibarri says.

"That's not my vision for Adams County," he adds.

But not everyone agrees with him. On Wednesday, a group called the Build Our Homes Right Coalition, comprised of homeowners who have experienced construction defects, issued a statement against Senate Bill 220. Arbitration is more expensive than a lawsuit because the parties have to hire the arbitrator, the group claims. Plus, it argues, if the homeowners don't agree with the arbitrator's opinion, they can't appeal it.

"The reality is that Colorado's construction defect laws aren't the cause of lawsuits --shoddy construction and bad workmanship are the cause," Mary Lavia, a Denver homeowner who has experienced construction defects in her new condo, said in a statement. "Those laws are there to protect consumers from home builders who cut corners and refuse to make adequate repairs.

"The result of Senate Bill 220 will be more poorly constructed condos and houses with more defects, because forcing homeowners into binding arbitration means home builders will have less incentive to build with quality in the first place."

This year's legislative session is scheduled to end on Wednesday, May 7.

Continue to read Ulibarri's bills.

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar

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