EDITORIAL: Aurora, Legislature must dispel condo-building myths perpetuated by home-builders and their minions

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EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this editorial stated that Councilman Bob Roth runs a consulting business that handles residential construction concerns, which he financially benefits from. He said his consulting business does not directly make money from the residential construction industry. He is well known in the residential commercial industry. lobbies at the Capitol on their behalf and his digital collateral boasts industry ties and testimonials on his behalf.

It’s no mystery how the condo-building industry has fashioned itself to be a victim in Colorado. It’s about money and political influence.

The deep-pocketed construction lobby is flexing its political muscle again in trying to hoodwink the Aurora City Council into further undoing consumer protections already badly damaged by this city council and the state Legislature.

Few things in this state have risen to level of sham as has the myth and rewritten history about building condominiums along the Front Range.

We’ll set the record straight.

For generations, the building industry has paid mightily into the coffers of elected officials at every level of Colorado government. It has been money well spent.

Few industries enjoy the liberties and lack of oversight in Colorado as do homebuilders and developers.

For those new to the area or who have trouble accurately remembering how the state got here, this is what happened.

The industry was jilted by the Legislature in 2007 when lawmakers took pity on hordes of condo-owners ripped off by shoddy builders. This newspaper and others were filled with years of horrific stories of shoddy construction and evaporating construction companies that left hard-working homeowners with upside down mortgages on broken properties.

So legislators closed a loophole in a 2001 state law that had made it nearly impossible for victimized homeowners to find justice in court.

Then came the Great Recession. Nobody built nor bought much of anything. Beginning a few years ago, the metro economy heated up. Hundreds of thousands of people poured into the front range, and the market for apartments got hot.

Community leaders clamoring for affordable condos were told by builders they couldn’t afford to build them because insurance against shoddy-construction lawsuits was too expensive.

To this day no one has ever provided a credible, transparent analysis of that long-peddled tale.

Despite that, builders flexed their cash and bullied the Colorado Legislature into weakening the ability for condo homeowners to sue builders when the roof caves in. Foolish city councils in Denver, Aurora and Lakewood caved to builder pressure and exempted consumer protections against shoddy builders in those cities.

And you know how many condos that built? None.

It’s a market issue and always has been. The metro market for high-profit, high-end homes and apartments has been hot. Now that it’s reaching stasis, the region will be ripe for condos.

What’s happening here is that builders, their minions and stooges are trying to get in front of the next building wave and protect builders’ ability to leave future homeowners holding the bag for shoddy construction mistakes.

No state law prevents builders from providing quality product. No state law prevents builders who made mistakes from making good on problems and fixing them. No state law prevents builders from negotiating with homeowners how best to handle buckling foundations, sloping walls, cracking drywall or dropping floors. No state law says judges have to side with homeowners.

Consumer protection laws simply back the consumer’s right to let a court decided who’s at fault and what the remedy is when both sides fail to come to a mutual agreement on what to do when the roof starts leaking.

Builders are not victims in this issue, the public is. We have been sold a scam perpetuated by lawmakers in Aurora and at the Capitol beholden to an industry — not the public.

We’re not saying all homebuilders are unscrupulous, but even reputable and honest builders are standing by silently as this myth is perpetuated. All honest builders should be up-front and expalin that the price of concrete, land, water taps, labor and copper are far more integral to the sales price of a home than these insurance premiums.

On the Aurora City Council, Councilman Bob Roth is clamoring for Aurora to insist the state further undermine consumer protections on this issue. He freely admits from the dais he backs the home-building industry. He runs a consulting business that he says focuses on commercial construction, yet his websites boast testimonials from the Colorado Homebuilders Association. Rather than lead the parade on this scam, Roth should recuse himself from even commenting on it as an elected lawmaker.

While no builder has offered this newspaper or any other the ability to scrutinize profit and loss estimates based on insurance rates, nor have insurance companies backed up their stories. The public should demand critical proof that eradicating consumer protections will reduce insurance premiums so drastically that it makes a condo project feasible.

Even for those foolish enough to stipulate this dubious insurance fable, the clear target here isn’t undermining consumer protections against life-ruining builder malfeasance, the legislative target should be shoddy-builder-lawsuit insurance.

If Roth, the Aurora City Council and Colorado Legislature are so concerned about stoking the condo market, then focus new laws on insurance regulation, or push the state into taking over the insurance dilemma in Colorado.

But do not mark Aurora as a community where builders rule city hall and are able to get away with shoddy-construction nightmares. Such a short-sighted move will only reduce all property values here and guide prospective new-home buyers to communities that wisely serve the public interest rather than a deep-pocketed industry.