Here are Bob Yates’ answers to Boulder Housing Network’s four questions:
1. Where does housing rank amongst your priorities for the three-year term you are seeking? What housing policies or programs will you advocate to include in Council’s 2024-2025 work plan?
Housing is tied with public safety as my top two issues for the next council. We have made great strides in housing over the past few years, and I am proud to have been part of these things:
I have supported every housing project to come to council on site review during my eight years on council.
I helped create the Middle Income Down Payment Assistance Program, which was approved by the voters and launched this year.
I helped craft the ADU Type 2 rent limitation, which resulted in 40% of all new rental ADUs formed since 2018 being affordable to someone making 75% of the Area Median Income.
I supported council’s incentives and land use changes to allow more housing to be created in East Boulder and at Transit Village 2.
I supported the allowance of duplexes and triplexes where they were previously prohibited.
Looking forward, I want to build on all of these initiatives in the coming council. But, most importantly, I would like the 2024-25 revisions to the Comprehensive Plan to shift the Area III Planning Reserve to Area II, so that parcels can be annexed and housing can be built there.
2. Where and by what means during your three year term should Boulder create more middle-income housing? By middle-income housing, we mean housing that is attainable to households earning $80,000 to $150,000 a year.
I helped create the Middle Income Down Payment Assistance Program, which was launched this year. As I wrote in a recent issue of my monthly newsletter, the idea for the program arose during a bus ride that I took with Sam Weaver in June 2016. Working with city staff, mortgage lenders, and realtors, Sam and I adjusted and tweaked the program until it was ready to be approved by council and the voters in 2019. Covid delayed the planned launch of the program in 2020, but the current council had the courage to launch the program this summer, seven years after it was conceived.
The program offers interest-free loans to families earning up to 120% of the Area Median Income, allowing them to borrow up to 30% of the price of their new home, to be applied as a down payment. The loan is interest-free and does not require debt service or repayment for 15 years. For many families who otherwise income-qualify for a mortgage but who don’t have enough saved for a down payment (often a problem for young or first-time buyers), the city’s down payment assistance accelerates their time to home ownership and equity-building. Perhaps most importantly, homes enrolled in the program are appreciation-capped (currently at a little more than 3% per year), allowing the creation over time of a cohort of below-market housing that subsequent families can take advantage of.
We will adjust the program over time, based on participant experience and feedback.
3. 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?
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.
4. What are the biggest obstacles to creating the type of housing that you have just discussed, and what role can City Council play in removing them?
During my eight years on council, I have come to realize that the biggest obstacle to projects and programs that drive housing affordability is community fear of change. We saw it with co-op and ADU liberalization. We saw it with specific projects like 3303 Broadway, CU South, Attention Homes, and Marpa House. We will undoubtedly see it with the upcoming Baseline and Alpine-Balsam projects, as well as other projects yet to be announced or conceived.
But, I have also learned that, communicating with residents openly and candidly can often assuage their fear of the unknown. People who are listened to, who are part of the planning, can often get on board. And, even if they don’t fully support the proposed change or project, their resistance can be tempered with understanding of the goals and objectives. As council members, it is our duty to tell our constituents in advance what we plan to do, to truly listen to their concerns, to be willing to accept some of their adjustments, and to explain our decisions after we make them. I have tried to do this through 84 issues of my monthly newsletter, the Boulder Bulletin. Other council members can use communication tools that best suit them.
Folks won’t always agree with us, but they will understand why we did what we did. And they will feel listened to.