Boulder: Council Creates Middle Income Housing Task Force

City staff’s recommendation to create a new working group to make recommendations regarding a middle-income housing strategy was approved by the City Council this week. Boulder already has a Housing Boulder Process Committee tasked with reviewing affordable housing policies. However, staff suggested a new group comprised of several City Council members and a few representatives from the Planning Commission would be the best way to tackle this challenging issue.

As the Better Boulder group argued, the creation of a new group means recommendations couldn’t be implemented until 2017. In the meantime, housing affordability remains a top concern for residents and 80 percent of citizens support more housing and mixed-use development.

The staff has already come up with a list of possible “interventions,” to create housing for the middle class.  Most of the ideas would artificially restrict the market and are unlikely to solve the problem, which after all is the result of past and current Boulder policies. Some of the solutions proposed by staff include: increasing the affordable housing linkage fee for non-residential development, a down payment assistance program coupled with deed restrictions for recipients, and policies requiring a higher level of community benefit for annexations such as requiring specific housing types affordable for middle-income residents.

Data was produced related to the claim previously made by some Council members regarding “monster homes.” In the past 11 years 270 demolition permits were issued for single-family homes and yes, the new homes they replaced were larger. However, this represents only 1.4 percent of single-family homes in Boulder. Even so, staff has suggested interventions to deal with that issue, too. For example, a temporary maximum square footage moratorium for new homes and remodels and  a prohibition on demolitions.

The Task Force will come back to Council in August, hopefully with some recommendations that can be considered. The Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan update is also underway and some Council members believe it may include some concept relating to the issue.

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