Housing Diversity

Susan believes that creating a community of housing options, appropriate for a variety of income levels - from apartments to single family homes - is critical to fostering a vibrant, interconnected community. 

 

One of the things she has always enjoyed about Boulder is seeing her son’s teachers at the grocery store, and her mailman at the coffee shop.  Making it possible for a wide range of people, with a wide range of needs, to live and work here is critical to protecting this community diversity.

However, this desired community is often in tension with local market forces and the hard limits on sustainable growth.  Susan comes from a background in engineering and executive management, where she was successful at gathering stakeholders to define the “Problem Statement”, come to agreement on the “Desired State”, identify “Solution Options” and their pros and cons, and implement those solutions, in spite of sometimes conflicting goals and bureaucratic road blocks.

“Desired State”, as defined by Susan:  the ideal amount and mix of housing types at a variety of income levels that better match the needs of our community, our neighborhoods and our local workforce.

In the case of Boulder housing, we do not seem to have a good handle on the “Desired State”, which Susan would define as the ideal amount and mix of housing types at a variety of income levels that better match the needs of our community, our neighborhoods and our local workforce.  Clearly, the constraints on sustainable density would keep us from housing our entire workforce (see relationship between “Housing” and “Healthy Business”).  But coming closer to that desired mix is entirely possible. 

 

Some solutions to consider:

Solution A:  Continue Inclusionary Zoning policy, but add incentives for integrating permanently affordable housing on-site more often, rather than opting out with Cash-In Lieu (CIL).  Otherwise, we will continue to create segregation by income strata rather than fostering the inclusive community we desire.  How do you do that?  Well, for one, stop setting the CIL rate to be 75% of the actual costs of building the affordable housing. It’s no wonder that virtually all rental housing developers opt for this. The fees should be at least the actual true costs of building the AH.

Solution B:   Increase Commercial Linkage fees, which go to support Affordable Housing. Currently Commercial Linkage fees are only $30/sf vs. The actual costs to the City, calculated by the City’s own consultant (KMA) are $130/sf.

Solution C:  Implement middle Income programs: We’ve had pretty good programs for low income residents making 30 - 80% of Area Median Income (AMI), but Middle income families (those making 80-120% AMI) cannot afford Boulder.  Susan supports maintaining currently affordable housing stock with special incentives to keep small houses small. She also supports down-payment assistance thru low cost or no cost loan to help bridge gap for Middle Income families.

 

Solution D:  Engage neighborhoods in a statistically significant way (not just sticky notes on a poster board) to gather information, neighborhood by neighborhood, about the “Desired State” for the local community (for a great example, see thinkboulder survey).  Require Planning Board and City Council to put first priority on neighborhood desires when considering alternatives, especially in key areas like Alpine-Balsam, CU South, Long’s Gardens, Frazier Meadows, Hogan Pancost and Arapahoe East

 

Susan looks forward to applying her skills toward solutions that bring Boulder-ites together, rather than divide us.

In Susan’s experience, complex problems generally require multi-threaded, inter-related solutions.  She has proven her ability to research and engineer creative solutions time and again throughout her career.

Housing Diversity Relationship to:

 

Managed Growth: Having people live near their workplace, whenever feasible, is a great way to reduce traffic.  For that to happen, we need to have a better, quantifiable understanding of local workforce housing needs, both by income level and type of housing.

 

Climate Action: If we were only optimizing for carbon footprint, it might seem that the goal would be for everyone to live in small stacked flats with only communal access to green spaces.  This simplistic view of our highly tensegrous Boulder community ignores the reality that people, like chickens, benefit from room to grow.  It’s just not practical to coop us all up… Susan is for free range people!  In fact, the health risks of living in dense, cramped spaces has been well documented.  In addition, the rooftop space available for solar power generation is greater in single family homes or attached dwelling units, as is the opportunity for creating habitat for a broader range of flora and fauna, including habitat for our all-important pollinators. Lawns can be turned into carbon sequestration gardens, and used to let Mother Nature contribute to our health with our own little spot of green.

 

Open Space: Diversity of housing offers more opportunity for us to protect one of our most valuable assets, our mountain views.  If we simply optimize for small, environmentally efficient living units built several stories up, we may negatively impact the daily access to the beautiful vistas that regenerate us all, vistas that should not be the property of a few people at the top.

 

Healthy Business: Providing housing that better matches that need of our local workforce, singles and families alike, is important for a healthy business environment.

Social Justice: Moderating market forces with good planning policies is required to provide an even more inclusive community.  Integrating a variety of housing stock is good for community.  Preservation of neighborhood character and our mountain views is good for everyone’s soul.

 

Arts and Culture: The aesthetics of the variety in our neighborhoods, and development of appropriate scale to a community is a critical component of our everyday enjoyment of our collective home.

Good Governance: Balancing the needs of each neighborhood equally with the needs of the City is critical toward maintaining and improving the diversity of our housing.  Holding City staff to a higher standard of due diligence and challenging them to incorporate the unique characteristics of Boulder into every proposed change is of paramount importance.