Policy to support – not hinder – metro districts is essential to increased housing inventory and development
Elected officials, community leaders, private sector developers, and task forces from the nonprofit and private sector are regularly meeting to discuss how we can provide more housing to meet our community’s needs. It’s important, and we’re making real progress.
While we are continually working with elected officials, business leaders, nonprofits, and community advocates to find innovative ideas to address housing here in Eagle County, we also need to raise awareness about policy decisions that will make it harder for Colorado communities to provide more housing. Policy decisions can help or hinder housing developments; it is part of the process that the public rarely sees, yet it impacts costs and development.
That’s where we are right now with House Bill 23-1090. This bill making its way through the General Assembly would put significant limitations on how metropolitan districts seek financing to provide streets, sidewalks, parks, water lines, and sewers for new housing developments.
Why does this legislation matter? Metro districts are a type of local government common in the Eagle Valley. Think EagleVail or Edwards or Beaver Creek: our local metro districts provide many of the public services and amenities that enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors and support our thriving local economy and small businesses. These districts follow the state’s open records and transparency laws through elected boards, regular board meetings open to the public, and websites that include board agendas, budgets, minutes, and other financial information.
The Colorado legislature specifically created metro districts many years ago so that local governments can finance, build, and maintain infrastructure like streets, sidewalks, parks, and water and sewer lines without placing those costs into the price of a new home, condo, or apartment. Metro districts allow these enormous costs to be financed over time, typically paid through the property taxes of the homes and commercial properties within the district’s boundaries.
Without a metro district, these costs would either be put into the upfront cost of a home, pricing many homebuyers out of the market, or requiring all taxpayers, not just the new property owners, to help pay the costs of the infrastructure. The creation of metro districts ensures that growth pays its way and that new homeowners are paying for the streets, parks, and other amenities where they live.
As we work toward providing more affordable housing, we need to keep this important tool in place. That’s where another proposal, Senate Bill 23-110, comes into the discussions. Senate Bill 110 addresses some well-justified concerns that have come up about metro districts.
This bill codifies several best practices used by municipalities and counties in their metro district service plans to improve transparency and accountability for taxpayers and homeowners. These best practices include mill-levy caps for bond payments and limits on metro district debt, providing assurances to homeowners on their property tax levels. Senate Bill 110 requires annual public meetings for metro district boards and disclosures during real estate transactions so that homebuyers are aware of metro district taxes and debt.
Requiring these provisions for metro districts across Colorado will bring the same level of accountability and access featured in many of our local districts. And it will keep metro districts in place as a critical piece of the housing affordability puzzle.
Hopefully, Eagle County’s legislators will see the merits in Senate Bill 110’s approach to metro district transparency and accountability, while helping their colleagues at the state capitol understand why House Bill 1090 will make it harder to solve Colorado’s housing crisis.
Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com