Here are Tara Winer’s 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 ranks in my top two priorities: Housing and homelessness. These two topics are connected in many ways. We need transitional housing – tiny homes, pallet homes, and other creative housing options- so people have somewhere to live other than in encampments. It will also help our 50% recidivism rate. With the help of the county, we should provide sober living housing and short term options for those getting out of jail or prison.
We need more deed restricted permanently affordable lower income and middle income options. Many in our workforce do not qualify for Permanently Affordable (Lower income) Housing. I intend to elevate the need for deed restricted permanently affordable middle income housing if re-elected.
We need more housing in the “under $1M category”. Because of the condo defect law, and other obstacles, we have not had much success in this category.
Prioritizing the Area III Planning Reserve is our best bet to provide homeownership options in this price category, where people can own their own home and build equity, as the city owns much of this land which will reduce housing prices.
In the Sept 21, 2023 council meeting, we accomplished Phase 1 of amending the Land Use Code to “remove regulatory barriers to affordable or modest-sized housing through changes to the site review process, intensity, form and bulk, use, and parking concerning affordable and modest-sized housing.” We already lined up what Phase II will look like for next year, and I look forward to working on this.
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.
Some of our land use policies as well rising material costs and inflation have made it harder
and more expensive to middle and attainable housing in the city. Our council has already made some progress in regards to our Inclusionary Housing laws. My hope is that we continue on that trajectory in 2024.
As previously mentioned, Area III planning reserve should be prioritized for annexation and development. As you know, we own much of the land so we have a better chance of building attainable housing for these households.
The airport is a possibility for a second large plot of city-owned land where we can build attainable housing, but this is a TBD for the next Council to decide. There will be plenty of pushback from the airport community and the FAA so it will not be as obvious a path forward. But we should have staff study this and see if there is a way forward.
I support the idea of community land trusts. It is a way to offer homeownership opportunities to lower/middle income families. It may be a way to ameliorate our labor shortages, as having nowhere for our city employees to live has taken a toll on our ability to hire staff.
Lastly, my daughter and son-in-law were able to afford a condo in Boulder a few years ago. However, Colorado’s condo defect law. has had the unintended consequences of disincentivizing developers from building more condos. I would like to see the state legislature fix this.
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?
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.
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?
The cost of land, inflation, labor shortages, and the cost of building materials are just some of the many market forces the city council does not control.
We can lighten the load to builders/architects/developers by eliminating archaic laws/rules from our land use code. We can consider ways to bring down the cost of site review. We can also sit down with architects , builders, and developers to get their perspective on what the obstacles are to affordability and how THEY suggest we remove them.
Our staff recently did a great job in removing some of these obstacles, and we just approved many of their suggestions as well as some of our own suggestions. We moved some ideas to Phase II so they get the proper amount of community engagement and study. We approved allowing duplexes and triplexes in single family zones as long as the density rules remained the same, ie.e 7,000 sq. ft. in RL-1, 7,500 sq. ft. in RE, and 30,000 sq. ft.in RR. We revised density calculation requirements. We replaced lot area per dwelling unit and open space per dwelling calculations with a floor area ratio (FAR) limits for some zones. This was a much needed and much applauded change.