Apr 16, 2021

Axios Denver

Happy Friday, neighbors. We hope you’ve had a great week.

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Today's newsletter is 920 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Home buyers wonder how high prices will go

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

No doubt Denver is experiencing a housing frenzy. The question is: Will the boom bust?

What they’re saying: "I don’t think there’s any chance of a bubble here. … We have people with a lot of equity," says real estate broker John Danyliw, who has worked in the local market for 50 years.

  • "We’re going to be in this marketplace for quite a while. And hopefully we will not become California," he tells Axios.

State of play: House hunters in Denver are battling bidding wars, soaring prices and the pressure to make fast, rash decisions — including waiving their right to a property inspection — before their home of choice gets snapped up by another buyer.

  • High demand continues to outstrip inventory across metro Denver, with the number of houses for sale dipping to historic lows, thanks in part to low mortgage rates that currently hover around 3%.
  • Home value appreciation continues to increase into the high double-digits.
  • Meanwhile, local realtors are undergoing the painstaking process of navigating an unprecedented market.

Of note: Denver’s housing woes reflect a national trend, with the country’s available homes hitting record lows at 1.03 million.

Data: National Association of Realtors; Chart: Axios Visuals

The big picture: Industry leaders predict the market won’t slow down any time soon — meaning waiting to buy could be more costly in the long run.

  • For example, holding off just one month to buy a $500,000 property from the end of February to the end of March would have cost an extra $35,000, according to the latest Denver Metro Association of Realtors data.

Read more on the boom

2. The politics behind lifting COVID restrictions

Gov. Jared Polis visits a mass COVID-19 vaccination event. Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Jared Polis is no longer the state's top COVID cop. The Colorado governor passes the baton Saturday to local officials to set most public health orders.

Why it matters: Like most major decisions made by the nation's governors during the pandemic, the move is colored by politics.

On this accord, Polis — who faces re-election in 2022 — stands apart from many of his Democratic peers.

  • Polis is adamant about the need to get back to normal — and he continually touts that he reopened Colorado's economy before other states, a talking point more often heard from Republican governors.
  • He argues his decisions prioritize public health, but he cites the need for personal responsibility.

Between the lines: "The language he is using [about reopening] is more aggressive," says Josh Penry, a top Republican strategist in Colorado. "I think he probably feels that pressure."

Asked this week about his approach, Polis acknowledged that the risk of further outbreaks and deaths are probable. But he argued the benefits of reopening schools and restaurants are worth it.

  • "What's important is respecting human lives and human dignity. And part of our dignity is being able to support ourselves," he tells John.

Dive into the politics

3. The mountains are calling this weekend

Clara Abel surfs at the Great Sand Dunes in 2019. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Colorado is home to four national parks and all are free to visit this Saturday, as part of the launch of National Park Week.

4. Trying to address college admission barriers

The CU Boulder campus. Photo: Chet Strange/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Building on national trends, Colorado lawmakers are pushing two measures designed to break down barriers to accessing college.

Legislation being considered in the Democratic-led General Assembly includes:

  • Making the SAT and ACT tests optional for 2021 graduates applying to Colorado colleges and universities.
  • Prohibiting state schools from considering "legacy preferences" that give advantages to applicants whose family members attended the same institution.

Why it matters: Together the bills represent a notable shift in how colleges and universities would evaluate prospective students. Both are designed to make it easier for low-income and first-generation applicants to make the cut.

  • "Let's look at the merits and make sure we aren't creating different paths for different people," says Rep. Kyle Mullica, a Northglenn Democratic bill sponsor and first-generation college graduate.

What they're saying: When it comes to the question about legacy admissions, the state's largest public university — University of Colorado Boulder — supports the change, Denver 7 reports.

  • If approved as expected, the bill sponsors believe it would be the first state law of its kind in the nation.
  • Yes, but: In other states, colleges have suggested a need to show preference to alumni because their financial donations are crucial amid declining state revenues.

Of note: The bill to make SAT and ACT admissions tests optional is also supported by Colorado colleges and universities but it's facing more resistance, according to Chalkbeat, an Axios reporting partner.

  • The bill's critics say it would remove an objective measure to evaluate student preparedness and only leaves the subjective GPA as a guide.

What's next: Both measures passed the House and await action in the Senate.

5. Nuggets: Catch up quick on the week's news

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Health officials declined to say whether they conducted an on-site inspection of a facility in Colorado Springs now under investigation for how it handled COVID-19 vaccines. The state is pledging to conduct more inspections. (Colorado Politics)

A whopping 41 new COVID-19 outbreaks at K-12 schools have been reported, with the most severe outbreaks in Douglas County, where officials recently announced they would be opting out of public health orders. (Westword)

A Japanese incarceration camp in Granada may become a National Historic Site after the introduction of a bipartisan bill in Congress.(Colorado Sun)

The Suncor plant in Commerce City, cited by the state for repeated pollution violations, underestimated the risks at the refinery, a new report states. The company is pledging millions to upgrade it. (Denver Business Journal)

Colorado is offering frontline workers free rapid COVID-19 testing, as part of a program designed to limit outbreaks. (Denver Post)

Salesforce, which has a large Denver operation, said it would welcome back vaccinated employees to the office, one of the first to show preferential treatment. (Reuters)

Tickets go on sale today for the Colorado Rapids' home opener April 24 with 7,897 fans allowed into Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. (CBS 4)

6. 1 fun thing: Meet Dexter

Dexter walking in Ouray. Courtesy of 9 News.

We want you to meet Dexter, who walks down the street on his two hind legs, much like a human.

Ever since reporter Steve Staeger at 9 News profiled the incredible 6-year-old Brittany Spaniel who lives in Ouray, we can't stop watching the video — and smiling about the dog's moxie.

  • We're not the only ones who love him. Dexter has more than a quarter million followers combined on Instagram and TikTok.

Our weekend picks:

🎧 John is listening to this throwback playlist and wearing neon at Vail's closing weekend.

🍻 Alayna is sipping on these and wishing you a happy weekend. Cheers!

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