What would you like to tell our subscribers that you will do during your three year term to create housing that is at least somewhat affordable for middle-income residents?
Taishya Adams: As a middle-income earner who has rented for the last 11 years in the City of Boulder, I will work to reimagine our affordable housing programs to align the financial supports with the actual market rates. I want every renter in good standing to be able to buy the home/house/apartment that they rent. I also want our affordability programs to allow for intergenerational wealth building – one of the many ways that marginalized people contributed to our society but did not benefit from that labor.
Silas Atkins: (refers to response #2) The quickest way to add middle-income housing is to build more housing stock to bring down the market rate for rentals and home purchases. This can best be accomplished by simplifying the permitting process for new and retrofit construction. This must be done with a focus on sustainable and climate resilient construction.
Terri Brncic: (refers to responses #1 and #2) We talk a lot about wanting to provide housing for our in-commuting service workers – the teachers, nurses and firefighters that can’t afford to live in Boulder. However, the high-end townhomes and studio apartments that we are building are not meeting the needs of this population. Around ten years ago the city conducted a housing survey to better understand the needs of its in-commuting workforce. I would like to refresh this analysis so that we can create a development roadmap that will ensure we are delivering the right types of housing at the right price points. We also need to set very clear metrics for success. If reduction in in-commuters is the goal, then we should be measuring and holding ourselves accountable to this target and not just building for buildings sake.
My other priority is to improve rental affordability through incentive zoning. I think the majority council missed a big opportunity to drive affordability through the recent change in occupancy limits. Rather than allowing all of the financial benefits of increased occupancy to accrue to property owners, rent reductions should have been a condition for receiving occupancy variances. I will push to amend this ordinance to require rent reductions in exchange for increased occupancy, similar to the way we currently handle ADU variances.
The most immediate opportunity for creating more middle-income housing is through incentive zoning changes. The City Council recently approved some changes to zoning that would incentivize the creation of more middle housing in multi-unit developments by removing some planning review steps and by allowing up-zoning in certain single family neighborhoods. A second phase of these zoning changes will likely come up in the next council. I am generally in support of these new zoning regulations provided they are coupled with affordability commitments. For example, I would be in support of selective up-zoning in single family neighborhoods provided there is a deed-restricted component to these new developments so that we aren’t just creating more $1M+ townhomes.
The other promising opportunity in this area is the Middle Income Down Payment Assistance Program, which is currently being piloted. In the coming years, we will have sufficient data to assess whether this program is achieving its goals and determine whether full-funding of the program is warranted. On the surface, I think this is a compelling tool to enable more home-ownership for middle income families.
Aaron Brockett: (refers to response #2) One huge opportunity is the Area III Planning Reserve. We should move forward with making that area eligible for annexation. Much of the land in that area is city owned already, which would allow for the creation of substantial amounts of middle-income attainable housing. We should also finish out the rezoning process for the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan as well as the Boulder Junction Phase 2 area (we just approved an update to the plan this week, but more work lies ahead in changing the land use designation and then rezoning as necessary). While new market-rate construction is expensive, many of the new rentals are attainable to people in that income range. Another possibility is work with the new Middle Income Housing Authority at the state level to build multiple middle-income developments. I spoke with their organizers some months ago and it’s a promising new revenue stream that also includes technical assistance.
Waylon Lewis: I grew up here. My parents were poor, hard-working, creative. They wouldn’t make it here, today. My mom barely did, even then—we sold our house in 1991 because we couldn’t make the dreaded balloon payment. We’ve always been affluent, but with room for creative housing, affordable rentals, middle class homes even in fancy neighborhoods. That Boulder is gone, and we must push back. Prices have doubled, and doubled again. That sounds nice for present homeowners, but unless we’re moving away and selling, it simply raises our taxes while making our community even more homogenous, frankly boring—while excluding diversity, families, and businesses of our next generation.
I’m trying to make this answer personal so you can trust who I am, and my genuine, urgent desire to attend more housewarmings, see fewer friends, essential workers, entrepreneurs and healthcare workers, etc…move away. Let’s make Boulder weird, welcoming, and wonderful. We can do it and I’ll work for it.
Tina Marquis: I will continue to explore development of city-owned land to provide affordable, deed-restricted options, support infill and look at light upzoning in residential areas close to transit. I am also open to exploring rent stabilization. While rent control has had mixed results, I believe it is worth testing new approaches to provide affordable housing options and reduce housing insecurity in our community.
Aaron Neyer: I will work to foster strong relationships, between the city, the people, and the developers; to ensure that we are working in unison to get people the housing that they need and I will work intently with city staff to ensure that we are putting in place programs that support this.
Jenny Robins: In addition to working to leverage our existing cash in lieu, I would pursue zoning reform to allow for slightly higher densities and gentle infill in certain areas. These areas can include our vacant or aging business and industrial districts where we can rezone to create multi-unit housing as mixed use near transit corridors. We need to re-evaluate parking requirements where we have mass transit. This zoning reform would require an in-depth review of our existing land use code to remove or revise any provisions that are outdated, unnecessary, or redundant.
Ryan Schuchard: My overall framework for creating more affordable options for middle-income residents is outlined in the response to question 2. As for specific action, I will advocate that we provide maximum support for continuation as well as next phases of reforms that the current council has begun, such as those adopted in September 21, 2023, while playing a proactive role in advancing statewide housing reform. I will also advocate that we create a greater political focus on climate action which will help the cause of land use reform.
At the more detailed level, some opportunities I am especially excited about exploring are reducing minimum lot sizes, switching long lists of requirements to lists of specific disallowances, setting out corridor plans for more people-centered, transit-oriented spaces on busy roads, and encouraging granny flats and accessory dwelling units.
I am also interested to investigate opportunities to encourage homeowner associations of large single-family homes to facilitate options that allow their members to increase occupancy, as well as to look for strategies both for ownership as well as rentals.
I plan to advocate for these kinds of measures during the workplan development process and beyond as opportunities arise.
Nicole Speer: I will advocate for:
- Adding significant single family home renovations and expansions to the Inclusionary Housing Program to generate more funding for affordable housing
- Continuing to relax single-family zoning to allow more duplexes, triplexes, and multiplexes in single-family areas
- Continuing to reduce parking minimums
- Exploring the use of the city-owned airport land for alternative uses
- Completing the baseline urban services study for the Area III Planning Reserve
- Ensuring major goals of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan update include affordability, sustainability, equity, and resilience.
- Increasing the minimum wage
- Subsidies for childcare (along with housing costs, childcare is one of the largest household costs and has increased substantially in the past 6-7 years)
- Charging large corporations (i.e., those making >$15M/year in profits) a fee for not paying their workers a living wage, with proceeds going to housing and basic needs subsidies for workers
Paul Tweedlie: The city should follow the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan and annex the 600 acres of land in the Planning Reserve and encourage the development of low-income housing.
Tara Winer: We already loosened the regulations on ADU’s and allowed them to be larger.
We have a lot of stock in single family housing. Not small affordable single family homes, but very large and very expensive single family homes. Allowing a duplex to be built on a single family lot will give more options for somewhat affordable housing. Councilmember Rachel Friend had a great idea at the council meeting on Sept 21. She suggested when putting a duplex on a single family lot, we can require home ownership for one of the units. Rachel wants her parents to be able to live near her but she also wants them to be able to have their own space. I like where she is going with this idea, as it can provide a possible solution to the problem I hear on the campaign trail “my grown children (or my aging parents) cannot find housing anywhere near me.” This will also bring in more families, which will bolster our lagging school enrollment. I intend to look for solutions to creating duplexes and triplexes that are “somewhat affordable.” if re-elected. We need to have community engagement on this first, but it seems a possible option to me.
Bob Yates: If elected as mayor, I plan to:
Continue to approve housing projects as they are presented.
Streamline the city’s planning and review process, so that projects get through the pipeline more quickly and less expensively.
Use the 2025 update of the Comp Plan to change land use designations that will facilitate more housing. The most important of these designation changes is shifting the Area III Planning Reserve to Area II, so that parcels can be annexed and housing can be built there.
Work with CU to help them achieve their goal of 40% of their students living in university-owned housing.
Work with the state legislature and the governor to craft state legislation for 2024 that does a better job than SB23-213 in incentivizing cities to create housing opportunities for residents and workers.
Expand the number of permanent supportive housing opportunities so that unhoused people not only have a place to live, but also services that will help them thrive.
Adjust, as necessary, the Middle Income Down Payment Assistance Program, the ADU Type 2 rent cap program, and occupancy laws to ensure that the city government is supporting true housing affordability.