Here are Terri Brncic’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 within my top three priorities. There are two primary policies that I would like to push for in the upcoming work plan.
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.
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.
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.
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?
See responses to numbers 1 and 2. I believe this is the same question, but please let me know if I have misunderstood.
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?
Exorbitant land costs are the biggest obstacle to creating affordable middle-income housing in Boulder. Private developers are incentivized to build either small occupancy rental units or high-end for-sale townhomes, as these represent the best returns on investment. As such, the most feasible way for Boulder to increase its stock of middle housing is through large-scale housing development on city-owned land – similar to the Holiday neighborhood development.
The next council will be asked to weigh in on two important land use decisions concerning the Area III Planning Reserve and the Airport. The Area III Planning Reserve represents some of the last buildable public-owned land in Boulder and could be used for an ambitious affordable housing development. At the same time, discussions are underway to evaluate whether the Airport property could be repurposed to benefit a broader segment of the Boulder population through mixed-use development. I believe both options are worthy of consideration and would be open to discussing if I am elected to council.