Recent housing wins: Occupancy limits and ADUs

In August, Councilmembers voted 6-3 to increase occupancy limits to five unrelated people citywide (some previously subdivided homes in central neighborhoods are exempt).

While effects on affordability cannot yet be measured, the higher limit legalizes home-sharing arrangements already used by many Boulder renters, improving housing security for people who live together to save money or build community.

Five of the people who have worked tirelessly for years to increase the occupancy limits.

The 2021 Bedrooms are for People campaign brought widespread attention to occupancy, but advocates had been working for this change for more than a decade. Dozens of speakers at the August 17th public hearing highlighted this rich history of organizing and activism, while thanking City Council for taking action.

The occupancy vote followed action in May to update Boulder’s rules governing accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The new rules eliminate saturation limits, which previously capped ADUs at 20% of homes in a neighborhood. They also increased the allowable size of ADUs to 800 square feet for market-rate and 1200 square feet for affordable units, respectively. These changes will allow more homeowners to add ADUs, and make this infill housing choice accessible to more household types.

Many thanks to BHN readers who supported both of these reforms – your emails, testimony, and other work in the community make a difference!

For detailed information on the number and type of housing built in Boulder during the last 12 years, see By the numbers: What’s getting built in Boulder, by Shay Castle in the Boulder Beat, 9/15/23. Housing debates can run hot on emotion and hearsay. In this article, Shay Castle digests the last decade of rental housing construction in Boulder, including unit types and affordability.

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