Late last month, we told you about an important bill introduced in the Colorado General Assembly.  The bill had passed in the Colorado House of Representatives, and was headed for the Senate.  It was drafted to address the sharp decrease in condominium construction in this state, caused by developers’ fear of construction defect claims brought by condominium homeowners’ associations.  A description of the bill can be found in our original client alert here.

An update:  The bill has become law.  The Senate passed HB 1279 on May 4, and sent it to the Governor’s desk for signature.  Governor Hickenlooper signed it Tuesday, May 23, amid celebration from legislators and reform advocates.  As we noted last month, the bill “is not a complete ‘fix’ for the condominium construction issues, if such a fix even exists,” but it is widely considered a good first step.

In our April Client Alert, we reported on a possible breakthrough in construction defect reform legislation, which had passed the House and was moving to the Senate.  The Colorado Senate has now unanimously approved House Bill 1279, and sent it to Governor Hickenlooper, who is expected to sign the bill.  HB 1279 was one of six bills introduced this year in an effort to address the dearth of condominium construction in Denver.  It is the only bill to reach the Governor’s desk, and the first bill in four years of effort to make substantive changes to the existing construction defect law in Colorado.

In Denver on Wednesday, a federal court ruled for the first time that refusing to rent a dwelling to someone because the prospective renter does not conform to gender stereotype norms (e.g., because a person dresses or acts in a way, or is attracted to, married to, and/or has children with someone, that does not conform with stereotype norms associated with that person’s biological gender) constitutes sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”).

In 2015, Tonya and Rachel Smith (pictured left) were looking to move from their home in Erie, Colorado. The Smiths are a same-sex couple with two children, and Rachel is a transgender woman (meaning that Rachel is biologically a man but identifies as a woman). They found a rental property on Craigslist located in the Boulder County mountain town of Gold Hill. Tonya responded to the advertisement and emailed the owner. In her email, Tonya discussed her family, including mentioning that Rachel is transgender. The Smiths met with the owner that evening. In emails to Tonya after the Smiths visited the Gold Hill property, the owner stated that she would not rent to the Smiths because of concerns regarding their children, noise, and because their “uniqueness” and “unique relationship” would become the town focus and would jeopardize the owner’s “low profile” in the community.  The owner continued to attempt to rent the Gold Hill property.   The Smiths sued the owner, claiming, among other things, discrimination based on sex in violation of the FHA.

The FHA prohibits refusing to rent or to negotiate for the rental of a dwelling space on the basis of certain characteristics, including sex, as well as statements indicating such discrimination.  To this point, the Tenth Circuit has declined to extend FHA protections to discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or a person being transgender. But the Smiths did not bring their sex discrimination claim under these theories; instead, their claim was brought under the theory of sex stereotyping.  In their motion for summary judgment, the Smiths contended that discrimination against women for not conforming to gender stereotype norms concerning to or with whom a woman should be attracted, should marry, and/or should have children is sex discrimination in violation of the FHA. They also contended that discrimination against a transgender person because that person does not conform with the stereotypical norms ascribed to that person’s biological gender (e.g., how a biological male should dress or act) constitutes sex discrimination in violation of the FHA. The Smiths’ motion was unopposed.

Judge Raymond P. Moore of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado agreed with both contentions and granted the Smiths’ motion for summary judgment. The court was careful to state, however, that it had not ruled that discriminating against Rachel solely because she is transgender or against the Smiths solely because they’re a same-sex couple violated the FHA, as the Smiths’ sex discrimination claim did not include such allegations, and the Smiths’ motion for summary judgment was not based on those theories.

The case is Smith v. Avanti.

Many of the residents selected for the Beloved Community Village have had issues getting into Denver’s shelters—there are a few couples who want to live together, a transgender person, a person in a wheelchair, and Sandra Herman, who has pets. Credit: Westword
Many of the residents selected for the Beloved Community Village have had issues getting into Denver’s shelters—there are a few couples who want to live together, a transgender person, a person in a wheelchair, and Sandra Herman, who has pets. Credit: Westword

Earlier this week, Denver approved a temporary zoning permit for a tiny-house community for homeless people, the “Beloved Community Village.” The community will include eleven 8-foot by 12-foot shelters, as well as shared kitchen and bathroom facilities, constructed for about $130,000 on Urban Land Conservancy-owned property at 38th and Walnut Streets in the RiNo neighborhood. Continue Reading Local Governments Making Room for Tiny Homes

As Denver’s housing market continues to thrive, so, too, do the development-related concerns of existing residents.  The rapid pace of development in many City-close neighborhoods has at times pitted residents desiring attractive, pedestrian-oriented communities against developers responding to high demand for urban housing options.  On Monday, August 22, 2016, the Denver City Council passed a pair of City-wide development moratoria aimed at addressing parking and architectural issues.  CB16-0498 concerns use of the City’s small zone lot parking exemption.  CB-16-0541 places a one-year moratorium on use of the Zoning Code’s Garden Court Building Form.  Both bills passed with a unanimous vote of Councilmembers present and took effect August 25, 2016.  Continue Reading Denver City Council Passes Pair of Development Moratoria