What is the Future of Affordable Housing?

The City of Boulder has embarked on an ambitious effort to create a comprehensive housing strategy that could include tactics such as accessory dwelling units, rental housing and possibly “market rate” affordable housing.

One sign of the importance of this project is the decision by the City Manager’s Office to separate the Housing Division from the Human Services Division and create a direct reporting relationship to the City Manager’s Office. A search is now underway for a new Assistant City Manager for Housing.

On February 12 the Council began the dialogue. Even in the preliminary stage, it is clear that there is a philosophical divide as to how far the City should go. When is enough to enough? To what lengths should the City go to ensure middle class employees live in Boulder? This is a 30,000-foot level question with no clear answer.

However, consensus isn’t any easier when addressing specifics. For example, some Council members would support increasing building height limits to allow the City to grow upward and create more affordable housing in a city that has nearly run out of room to grow. Others are strongly opposed to that idea.

The debate will be interesting and lengthy. Before the next meeting, which is scheduled for May 14, staff was asked to research the makeup of Boulder’s workforce, how much space would be necessary to allow various percentages of that workforce to live here, how other cities have used density bonuses to get developers to build more affordable housing and the impact of City regulations on the price of housing.

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