FoCo considers rent control as Colorado mulls reversing 1981 ban

A bill in the Colorado Senate could have big impacts in Fort Collins, where renters and legislators are searching for ways to stem increasing rent prices.


Collegian | Charles Cohen

JJ Mckinney

Dylan Tusinski, Staff Reporter

Editor’s Note: Read the Spanish version of this article here.

The Colorado Senate is currently considering a bill that would allow local Colorado governments to implement rent control measures for the first time since 1981. The bill’s potential passage could have big impacts in Fort Collins, where renters and legislators are searching for ways to stem increasing rent prices.


Rent control has become a controversial method to combat the nationwide trend of rising rent. While supporters argue letting cities cap rent could help stabilize Fort Collins’ housing market and save students money, opponents say rent control is a temporary fix with long-term consequences.

“We need to build more affordable housing, but that’s not what rent control is. It’s not a production tool; it’s a stabilizing tool that keeps people housed.” –Andrew Boesenecker, Colorado General Assembly representative

The cost of living has risen sharply in recent years across the Front Range, with one Colorado State University study observing that rent in Fort Collins increased 50% from 2010-20. Fort Collins City Councilmember Kelly Ohlson, who represents most of Colorado State’s Fort Collins campus, said the causes of rising rents are complicated, but giving localities the option to enact their own policies could alleviate the issue.

“It’s a good move that our local reps are trying to get it so that localities can do that if they so desire,” Ohlson said. “It would be a very big issue with lots of outreach — and very controversial on all sides of the issue — but that doesn’t mean local communities shouldn’t have that choice.”

If the bill were to pass, Ohlson said, the city would be more than willing to consider adopting rent control as a part of its overarching Housing Strategic Plan.

While HB23-1115 passed through the Colorado House of Representatives with the support of Fort Collins legislators, it faces fierce opposition in the Senate from Fort Collins business interests.

The Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce and other Northern Colorado business groups have come out in vocal opposition to the bill. Joe Rowan, housing policy consultant for the Chamber, said rent control could cost cities more than it’s worth, resulting in higher taxes and slower development.

“While it may appear helpful reining in rapidly escalating rents, it must be adopted and administered by local jurisdictions without benefit of a funding source,” Rowan said. “So the attending cost of administration is borne by all taxpayers — i.e. higher taxes.”

Rowan and the bill’s opponents said rent control wouldn’t just raise taxes, it would also keep developers from building new housing in Colorado.

“Rent control policies also disincentivize new housing development and maintenance of existing inventory, which constrains the most effective method for balancing the market: increasing supply to meet demand,” Rowan said.


Lawmakers amended the bill to address those concerns before it passed the House. Under the tweaked bill, developments less than 15 years old are exempt from rent control measures, and rent increases would have a calculated “floor,” allowing rent to increase by at least 3% more than the rate of inflation.

The amended bill is supported by Fort Collins Representatives Cathy Kipp and Andrew Boesenecker, both of whom signed on as sponsors.

Boesenecker, who was one of the bill’s first sponsors, said rent control isn’t a cure for expensive rent. While opponents say that Colorado needs more housing — not capped rents — Boesenecker explained over a phone interview that he views ending the prohibition on rent control as only a piece in Colorado’s housing puzzle.

“We need to build more affordable housing, but that’s not what rent control is,” Boesenecker said. “It’s not a production tool; it’s a stabilizing tool that keeps people housed. You can build more housing, and you can also enact more fair and responsible limitations on the amount that rent can be increased.”

The bill faces a steep challenge in the Senate, where Republicans, moderate Democrats and business interests across the state have unified in a bipartisan showing to oppose rent control efforts. Even Gov. Jared Polis has come out against the bill, threatening a potential veto if it passes the Senate.

“Polis is skeptical that rent control will help with our biggest challenge, which is the lack of available housing stock,” said Conor Cahill, spokesperson for Polis. “Locations with these policies often have the unintended consequences of higher rent.”

While the long-term effects of rent control in Colorado are still up for study and debate, the bill’s supporters were clear that they aren’t necessarily in favor of rent control, but they support empowering communities to make decisions for themselves.

“Maybe Fort Collins discusses it in the future and doesn’t do it, but maybe other communities discuss it and do it,” Ohlson said. “That’s why I’m in support. It shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all.”

Reach Dylan Tusinski at or on Twitter @dylantusinski.