Government Affairs Update
Barbara Koelzer, Regional Government Affairs Director
Safer at Home Implemented April 27: Larimer County transitioned to Safer at Home orders on April 27. According to the County’s guidelines, showings are allowed but must be cleaned and disinfected between showings. Open houses are not allowed. Real estate and other field service professionals must follow the State’s guidelines on social distancing and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
County Reschedules NISP Hearings: The Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) 1041 permit application submitted to Larimer County by Northern Water was judged complete by Larimer County staff on March 18, 2020, with Northern Water also notified on March 19th.
Public hearings were tentatively scheduled to begin in May with the Larimer County Planning Commission and have been postponed to accommodate the health department’s public events guidelines given the COVID-19 emergency.
The first hearing is scheduled before the Larimer County Planning Commission at 6 p.m., June 24, 2020 in the Larimer County Courthouse Offices Building, 200 W. Oak St., Fort Collins in the First Floor Hearing Room. The first meeting will be dedicated to staff and applicant presentations only. Public testimony will begin on July 8.
The Board of Larimer County Commissioners will hold their first hearing on the matter at 6 p.m., on August 17, 2020 in the Larimer County Courthouse Offices Building, 200 W. Oak St., Fort Collins in the First Floor Hearing Room.
No Council Decision on Hughes Zoning: On May 18 the City Council tied 3 to 3 on a split vote concerning zoning for the former Hughes Stadium parcel after Mayor Pro Tem Kristin Stephens recused herself because of yet another ethics complaint due to her employment with property owner Colorado State University. Mayor Wade Troxell was also named in the complaint but chose to vote on the zoning application because he said he would be absolved of any wrong-doing, just as he and Stephens had been cleared in previous complaints.
City staff had recommended two different zoning densities on the 165-acre property – Low-Density Mixed-Use, and Residential Foothills, which is a lower-density classification. On the first hearing in November 2019, the ordinance passed with Cunniff, Gutowsky and Pignataro voting against it. The issue had been delayed by multiple ethics complaints utilized by neighbors to delay hearings and then by the COVID pandemic.
The latest hearing didn’t offer any new information. Opponents lined up to complain about the loss of open space, congestion and traffic. They begged the City to turn the property into open space. City staff
reminded the Council that Fort Collins has plenty of open space in the area, and that CSU has no interest in donating the land to the City.
Mayor Pro Tem Stephens announced her decision to recuse herself at the beginning of the hearing, which made the outcome of the vote clear. Mayor Troxell and Councilmembers Emily Gorgol and Ken Summers voiced frustration but had no power to change the vote.
Councilmember Susan Gutowsky’s comments were representative of the majority. She said she was influenced by the “tsunami of emails from residents who don’t want development.” She also argued “We have to get past the notion that we can build ourselves into affordability.”
The hearing and its outcome raise several questions. First, why did Kristin Stephens decide to recuse herself knowing her vote could break the tie? The bigger question relates to the concept of leadership. Should elected officials determine their vote according to the squeaky wheel concept?
Leaders should have vision and do what is in the best interest of their community. Voting no on the proposed zoning for the site just because neighbors don’t want development there won’t create more homes in a city with a low inventory and a rising affordability problem.
CSU and Lennar homes have not finalized the sale of the property. Now that the proposed zoning had been relegated to limbo land, it will be interesting to see what happens with the agreement moving forward.
Safer at Home: The Safer at Home order went into effect on April 27. Specific guidance for real estate and field service professionals was posted shortly thereafter. Some counties extended their Stay at Home orders (Boulder, Denver, Jefferson, Arapahoe, etc.) until May 9 with stricter requirements.
Safer at Home still requires social distancing, the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) and disinfecting protocols and other practices. Showings are allowed with strict guidelines. However, brokers should also refer to their managing brokers for specific policies. https://covid19.colorado.gov/safer-at-home/safer-at-home-field-services-and-real-estate
$3 Billion Budget Shortfall? Like local governments, the State of Colorado is anticipating budget deficits as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Colorado Sun, the General Assembly’s Joint Budget Committee must consider “massive budget cuts.” The Governor’s Budget Office is projects $3 billion in lost revenue for the current fiscal year and into 2020.
Cuts will be across the board and affect all State agencies. Unfortunately, discretionary spending is limited so impacts could affect K-12, higher education, transportation and other key services.
Help for Small Businesses: The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade maintains a working list of alternative funding for small businesses affected by COVID-19. The list includes credit card deferral programs, small bank loans and local and regional disaster assistance programs. View the list here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/18B-l5Rz8XE14Bn9LdQ1a8oDOpi6kKB1p0v2L_qQtVBE/edit#gid=987142964
NAR Supports HEROES Act: NAR President Vince Malta wrote to Congressional leaders recently expressing support for the proposed $3 trillion legislation known as the HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) Act. The bill would expand forbearance provisions for renters and homeowners and continue funding for PPP and EIDL. The HEROES Act passed the House on May 16 but is stalled in the Senate, where Republican leaders have voiced concern over the price tag. Observers say Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will wait to observe the economic impact of previous stimulus bills like the CARES Act before taking further legislation action.
FHFA Delivering Certainty: On May 14 National Association of Realtors® President Vince Malta issued a statement of appreciation after the Federal Housing Finance Agency unveiled a new repayment option for homeowners struggling financially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the proposal, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will offer borrowers currently in forbearance the ability to repay missed principle and interest when their home is sold, refinanced or at maturity.
The FHFA’s new program creates “payment deferral option for borrowers.” Payment deferral takes the missed mortgage payments and puts them into a payment due at the sale or refinancing of the home, or at the end of the loan. The borrower's monthly mortgage payment will not change. Mortgages that exercise the payment deferral option will remain in Enterprise Mortgage-Backed Securities, subject to the terms of the trust agreements. However, the borrower is responsible for taxes and insurance while in forbearance.
NAR Asks for COVID & Mortgage Finance Website: NAR joined a coalition of real estate and consumer groups to send a letter to the Treasury, HUD, and CFPB calling on them to create a single, central website for consumers to find information on how the CAREs Act affects their options as homeowners and renters. This site would collect information on forbearance, foreclosure and rental assistance into a single, intuitive website instead of the current diaspora of information across multiple regulators and agency websites.
Phase 3.5 Legislation Enacted, New Tranche of $310B Provided for PPP: On April 24, President Trump signed a $483B package which is generally referred to as the Phase 3.5 coronavirus package. The bill includes $310B in additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), $60B in funding EIDL small business grant/loan programs, $75B for hospitals, and $25B for testing efforts. Notably, of the $310B PPP funding, $30B is for mid-sized depositories (i.e., $10B to $50B in assets) and $30B is for community financial institutions and smaller depositories (i.e., <$10B in assets).
Effectively, the statute creates three separate funding pools and it is unclear at this stage how the SBA will police those volumes. The initial tranche of PPP funding was exhausted in roughly two weeks and it is expected this tranche will be disbursed in a relatively similar time period, which suggests that Congress will be forced to consider a third tranche of PPP funding as part of the forthcoming Phase 4 negotiations.
More information on these programs is available here: https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19#section-header-5