Back Porch Group Suggestions for Housing a Healthy Community

Suggestions agreed upon to date:

First, Do no harm. Boulder’s housing units currently considered affordable are on a trend to disappear within the next five years.

·      Development and redevelopment must not, in both absolute numbers and as a percentage decrease affordable housing units.  90% of current rentals are affordable to the income spectrum up to 150% of Boulder County’s area mean income (AMI) and rentals are roughly half of our housing stock, Thus, this housing stock alone comprises 40% of overall housing and it is affordable to a segment of the target market.  Through preservation of this housing, and by making these existing units permanently affordable, Boulder can make great strides toward mitigating this problem, enabling those who live here to stay. 

·      It is in the city’s best interest to facilitate the preservation and creation of housing for middle income earners. However we recognize Boulder is the most expensive neighborhood in a larger regional community as well as the regional employment center and cannot provide housing for all who wish to live here.  The region has a role as well.

·      The goal long term must be for PERMANENT broad spectrum (very low AMI to 150%) affordability if we want a durable solution.  Building “market rate” housing is why we have this problem in the first place.

·      Jobs population balance has significant influence prices and must be addressed as part of a durable solution. We would like to see more direct responsibility by employers for housing

Strategies to provide guidance:

·      Dashboard/Metrics. Progress toward the goals must be tracked city-wide and monitored with a dashboard widely available.

·      Evaluation – Determine effectiveness of pilots and lessons learned.  Utilize independent 3rd party evaluator for 24 month Challenge and beyond. Funding is necessary to achieve this goal.

·      Community driven solutions:  Engage neighborhoods to be part of the solution. Housing can be built that respects neighborhood character, does not add to traffic congestion, pollution, parking problems AND increases safety and mobility options.  Encourage every neighborhood to innovate solutions most appropriate for its context rather than imposing them.

·      Explore the range of potential outcomes if the City were to buy outright, or, facilitate the purchase by residents, of multi-family housing complexes and mobile home parks, and put them in a rent restricted or deed restricted permanently affordable housing pool.  This would require public money in the form of a bond and a tax to cover debt service in the first years until rent revenues or resale revenues cover the debt service on the bond. Such an exploration should include an economic analysis to establish the optimum mix and number of units to affect against the costs, the household wealth demographic(s) served, the household types served (singles, aged, families with children, group occupancies, etc.), housing types (single family semi-detached, multi-family, etc.), the period of time the taxpayers would be on the hook and market and other impacts. The goal of such an exploration is to establish the feasibility of the concept and assuming that is established, a rational basis for a public intervention in the housing market.  One potential outcome could be the making of a persuasive case to the public to fund such an effort.

Changes to existing regulations and/or incentives will be necessary to enable this vision including the following:

·      Redesign the IH process. We have lost the initial premise of Inclusionary Housing -  that it be inclusive.  Integrating it is being inclusive.  Exporting it off-site is exclusive. Affordable housing funding should NOT depend on building high end housing. Major benefits are now available through off-siting. Can this be reversed?

·      Prescriptive pathways to project approvals that provide significant clearly defined, public benefits, of which on-site affordable housing should figure prominently.

·      Require and incent provision of affordable housing based on clearly defined thresholds/metrics.

·      Re-evaluate cash-in-lieu, recognizing the tradeoff between integration and number of units built.

·      Fix code dis-incentives to the creation of modestly sized units with our “units per acre” zoning across most of the city.

·      The City of Boulder should contribute its land for the development of affordable housing.  To avoid “analysis paralysis”, Boulder should set aside its excess land for affordable housing.  Perhaps we forgo the “study” of the Pollard Motors site and the Boulder Community Hospital Site and instead hire a master developer/consultant to start the planning of the development of affordable housing on the properties.  

·      Develop a policy so that community service providers (teachers, policemen, firemen, etc.) can live in Boulder

·      Promote mixed use developments:  Encourage the owners of single use buildings to construct  a second story with housing.  For example residential above retail (Basemar shopping center, Meadows shopping center, Table Mesa shopping center).

Resources are necessary to achieve change in housing AND a combination zoning changes and density bonuses paired with low carbon transportation and parking reform could dramatically reduce the public funding required.

·       Allocate/raise funds for the development of affordable housing projects.

·       Allocate/raise funds for the preservation of existing relatively affordable housing and land.  Funds will help fill the gap between the value of the property if the purchaser maximized rental rates vs the value of the property at “affordable rental rates”.

·      Evaluate the impact of gentrification on property taxes and how taxes might displace current residents.

Suggested changes to Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan Update

1. The city will develop regulations and policies to ensure that development and redevelopment do not result in a net loss of units affordable to 150% AMI households and lower and that will increase the number of housing units permanently affordable to 150% AMI households and lower towards a goal of 50% of the total housing stock by 2030.

2. Community benefits: The City will ensure that significant additional community benefits are derived when development potential is increased beyond that which is allowed by-right according to zoning.  These benefits should be durable and prioritize permanently affordable mixed income housing and include arts space, affordable office space and retaining local businesses.

(not agreed upon by all parties):

3.    Enhanced Permanent Affordable Housing for Additional Residential Development Potential:  The city will develop regulations and policies to ensure that when additional density is provided through changes to zoning, the additional development potential for the residential use will be predominantly permanently affordable housing for low, moderate, and middle income households.