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New Colorado law leads to U+2 housing law ending in Fort Collins

Students react to Polis signing bill that prohibits cities from limiting people in home dwellings
Students react to Polis signing bill that prohibits cities from limiting people in home dwellings 02:30

A new law recently signed by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis will force the City of Fort Collins to abandon its long-standing housing ordinance known as "U+2." The ordinance prohibited the number of unrelated people living in one house to exceed three.  

The law has long been contested by many in the Fort Collins community, especially by students at Colorado State University who were seeking more affordable housing. 

"(Many students) are actively breaking this law because it is the only way they can afford housing in the City of Fort Collins," said CSU Student Body President Nick DeSalvo.

The law didn't take into account the size of the home, or the number of bedrooms. That meant even a home with eight bedrooms could only house three unrelated individuals. 

As the cost of housing soared and the amount of affordable housing didn't keep pace, some politicians joined many who argued there were empty rooms that people in need could fill if the ordinance was changed. 

"It historically has affected students deeply. It has prevented us from filling houses that we rent," DeSalvo said. 

For nearly two decades, students with the Associated Students of CSU lobbied and protested to the city council, calling for the ordinance to accommodate more housing options. However, the council continued to side with many landlords and homeowners who sought to protect the peace of their neighborhoods from overcrowding. DeSalvo said his team eventually elected to try and lobby at the state level. 

Students walk the campus of Colorado State University, where a number of students have been actively protesting a housing occupancy law due to the cost of housing on and near campus. CBS

"We hired a contract lobbying team and we focused a lot of our efforts at state legislation," DeSalvo said. 

Lawmakers at the capitol eventually elected to prohibit occupancy laws that limited the number of residents in a home purely based on their relationships. Rather, the law says ordinances can only limit housing if they promote and protect safety and health. 

Polis signed the bill into law, meaning all ordinances like U+2 in Colorado will be voided by July 1, 2024. 

Ginny Sawyer, policy and project manager for Fort Collins, said the city will have no other option but to continue enforcing its law until July 1.

"We have an obligation to continue to operate under the existing code until that time," Sawyer told CBS News Colorado's Dillon Thomas.

The city's council had been deliberating on making changes to the law for years. However, they had yet to reach an agreement on what ordinance would replace U+2. 

However, in recent years, Fort Collins has bolstered their nuisance ordinance enforcement. With U+2 being voided, the city plans to further enforce nuisance ordinances to assure residents are not further disturbed by overcrowding of homes. 

"Our commitment to quality of neighborhoods in town is not shifting," Sawyer said. 

Fort Collins will likely move forward in the coming months with an updated ordinance that will outline what standards will be set when it comes to enforcing health and safety in homes. 

"It will actually put greater (responsibility) on landlords to make sure their properties are safe, and they have the appropriate number of occupants, whatever that landlord may deem, for that property," Sawyer said.

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