DENVER (CBS4) – Local governments would have control over apartment rent increases if a bill before state lawmakers passes. Celeste Martinez among those supporting the bill.

(credit: CBS)

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She’s been a renter for eight years and says she’s been forced to pay as much as 65 percent of her income on rent.

“It was really challenging and required for me to get a second job just so I could cover all my basic needs,” Martinez said.

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She’s not alone. A third of Coloradans are renters, paying on average more than $1,400 a month. While the Metro Denver Apartment Association says rents have increased 3.4 percent a year on average since 2000, Martinez says some rents have skyrocketed, “Right now, landlords technically have the authority to increase rent as many times as they want.”

Which is why state Sen.s Julie Gonzalez and Robert Rodriguez have introduced a bill to allow local governments to control rent increases.

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“I’m sorry, but the free market has led us to this crisis,” Gonzalez told supporters.

State Sen. Julie Gonzalez (credit: CBS)

The bill repeals a law passed almost 40 years ago that bans rent control. Ted Nicolais with the Colorado Apartment Association says with good reason, “Basic economics tells you that whenever you place a cap on the price of any good, less of that is supplied and it’s the same with housing.

He says the bill will lead to less affordable housing, pointing to a study out of San Francisco that found rent control led to a 15 percent decrease in rental units, “The City of Denver has 120,000 rental units in it right now according to the U.S. Census. If what happened in San Francisco happened in Denver, Denver would stand to lose 18,000 rental units. My question is, where would those people go?”

(credit: CBS)

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Bill supporters don’t buy it. But even in a Democratically controlled legislature, this legislation will have an uphill battle.

Shaun Boyd