Colorado governor wants to temporarily suspend limits on unrelated people living together

In response to a rise in housing insecurity, Gov. Jared Polis on Sunday encouraged cities with restrictive occupancy limits to temporarily relax laws limiting the number of unrelated people who can share a home.

On Tuesday, he said he wants to not only encourage a pause in enforcement but compel it. Many cities in Colorado — including Denver and the governor’s hometown of Boulder, where the debate over this issue is currently raging — place limits on how many unrelated people can live together, with local limits generally ranging from about three to five people.

“I would like to temporarily require it. We will have our counsel looking at it,” Polis said, adding that the reason he hasn’t issued an order yet is that “the state has less authority in this area is because these are local ordinances.”

People and organizations around the state and country are bracing for a wave of evictions, which are already being processed in Denver. There’s great concern about increases in both homelessness and housing instability, and though the governor declined to extend the state’s eviction moratorium, he has been outspoken about the need to let unrelated people legally live in groups larger than what their cities may normally allow.

“It’s important now because if somebody isn’t living in that kind of situation they might be homeless,” he said, before remarking on NIMBYism: “The same type of people who complain about extra cars in the street or too many people living in a nearby house also generally complain about the homeless. So I think people just have to understand that there’s a trade-off there, and for the public health perspective, we should err on the side of allowing people safe housing for the period of this.”

Polis said he didn’t want to wade into a broader debate about inclusivity, or lack thereof, in city zoning laws and housing ordinances.

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