It’s no secret that housing has gotten more expensive around town. Average rent rates around Fort Collins have reached more than $1,200 per month, and vacancy rates have fallen under 2 percent within the last year; to say the market is tight would be an understatement. In a booming college town like Fort Collins, it is imperative for students for there to be affordable housing options on the market. Otherwise, expensive living costs burden us Rams during our time at school, and present an economic challenge to staying and contributing to the Fort Collins market after graduation. The Colorado State community makes up an integral part of the Fort Collins economy, so why isn’t this reflected in the housing market?
The issue is with legislation. According to the Coloradoan, builders are intimidated by the Colorado Construction Defects Law, a decade-old state law that allows groups of two or more condo owners to bring lawsuits against a builder up to six years after a property’s construction. Some companies claim this law makes condo construction too legally risky, while consumer advocates argue that these levels of protection are still necessary. Since 2012, condo prices have increased by as much as 52 percent in some areas of Fort Collins; the demand for this type of housing is abundant. Compromise is necessary between builders’ and consumers’ interests to fuel Fort Collins’ growth goals and meet the demand of a booming collegiate populace, and lawmakers’ current attempts to do so fail to strike a fair balance.
One proposed solution to the condo crunch, Colorado Senate Bill 91, is a good example of this. The proposed legislation would seek to alleviate builders’ risks by shortening the window under which condo owners could sue to three years after the construction of a building, as opposed to six. The bill’s proponent, Sen. Ray Scott, also proposes increasing the number of people needed to file a lawsuit to three or more tenants. The compromise offered by this bill is untenable, because although it substantially reduces the amount of legal risk builders face in constructing condos, it does not strike a fair balance with consumers’ rights to protection. At the same time, the current Construction Defects law offers consumers ample time to take legal action against builders, but does nothing to allow builders to defend themselves from lawsuits.
A potential remedy of this imbalance of protection would be to draft legislation that gives builders a three to five year window to fix defects in their construction without threat of legal action from owners, but then allows condo owners an equal timeframe afterwards, between three to five years, to take legal action against companies who have not mended defects in their buildings.
A solution like this would be a fair compromise between builders’ interest in reducing legal risks and consumers’ right to protection from unscrupulous construction. Consumers would retain the same level of protection they have under the current state law, and by giving builders an earlier window to fix construction errors, gives companies the benefit of the doubt when it comes to construction mistakes. Most importantly, it would give builders time to address the concerns of condo owners while avoiding expensive lawsuits from either party.
Reaching a compromise between builders’ and consumers’ interests is key to spurring condo construction and easing the bottleneck in the Fort Collins housing market. Neither current state law or proposed legislation offers a fair balance between the two groups, and lawmakers need to regroup to find a common sense solution that offers both condo owners and builders equal protections. In a booming, dynamic market like Fort Collins, compromise on condos is clearly in everyone’s best interest.
Collegian Senior Columnist Sean Kennedy can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @seanskenn.