Testimony from Mateo Lozano in support of HB-1115
One of our priority bills, HB-1115 (Repeal Prohibition of Local Residential Rent Control), is being heard in committee on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 1:30 p.m.
Voces Unidas organizes leaders from the Western Slope to testify and be part of the legislative process. Below is testimony from Mateo Lozano, submitted for the record in advance of the hearing.
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February 11, 2023
Members of the House Transportation, Housing and Local Government Committee,
My name is Mateo Lozano and I am writing today to express my support for HB-1115 – Repeal Prohibition of Local Residential Rent Control. Thank you for taking the time to read my testimony.
I am the Regional Organizer in Summit, Eagle and Lake counties for Voces Unidas de las Montañas, an organization that advocates for issues that are of interest to the Latino community in Colorado’s central mountains. And when it comes to the affordable housing crisis impacting our community, I share in my neighbors’ plight.
Although my office is in Frisco and much of my work takes place in Summit County, the lack of affordable rental opportunities in that area has forced me to live about 40 minutes away, in Leadville, where I routinely join the commuter traffic driving long distances over high mountain passes to go to work in surrounding resort towns.
Employment opportunities are limited in Lake County, but that pales in comparison to the lack of affordable housing opportunities in Summit County. Despite earning a competitive salary, I quickly found myself boxed out of the housing market when I encountered long waiting lists that often led to bidding wars for rental units anywhere near my office. A lengthy search eventually led me to a small rental in the next county.
Mine is an all-too-common story in Summit County and the surrounding central mountain region. Simply finding a suitable place to live, much less being priced out of the market and forced to find another place year after year, is one of the biggest concerns of the local working-class families, and Latino workers in particular. We know that Latinos are disproportionately impacted and displaced by rising rents in these communities, and our 2022 Colorado Latino Policy Agenda survey shows that two out of three Latinos in the state are in favor of giving local communities the right to decide on local rent control for themselves. Nearly 90% of Latinos surveyed support rent stabilization to address the oppressive rent hikes in mobile home parks.
Mobile home parks are considered the last bastion of unsubsidized affordable housing in Colorado and a critical piece of the workforce housing puzzle in our mountain resort communities, but my work has shown me firsthand how residents are being taken advantage of due to prevailing market conditions. Not only are rents on the rise, but many Latino residents are being manipulated by landlords unwilling to provide even the most basic services, like running water to drink and bathe, knowing that residents won’t file a formal complaint for fear of retaliation, including rent hikes and possible eviction. Residents endure marginal living conditions, delayed repairs and lack of services simply because they have nowhere else to go.
With statewide housing costs increasing by more than 90% since 2001, it’s evident that the lack of housing security poses a crisis for every renter in Colorado, and local elected officials need every available tool to address it. That includes a full repeal of the current ban on Local Control of rents, without any amendments that will limit true local control. As our mountain communities continue to develop, our local leaders need the flexibility to set policy that meets their specific needs, including achieving density requirements necessary to meet the growing housing demand without restrictions.
As housing remains in short supply and the increasing cost of rents continues to outpace wages, the affordability gap for renters in the High Country is nearly insurmountable. HB-1115 gives local officials a vital tool in the battle to reduce that gap and help Colorado communities thrive through the benefits of housing stability and affordability. We strongly urge you to pass the bill as introduced, and without amendments that limit local control.