Boulder: Co-op Ordinance Passes

On January 3 The Boulder City Council passed the cooperative housing ordinance 7-2 on third reading after a long public hearing. A 4th hearing will be required to finalize details on January 17 but the key provisions have been finalized after a year of intense public debate.

The ordinance regulates occupancy, square footage per resident, parking and a variety of other factors. It limits the number of licenses granted to 10 per year. Up to 12 residents are allowed per co-op in low-density residential districts, with 15 residents allowed in other districts. Each coop must have at least 2000 square feet (SF) of habitable space with a minimum of 200 SF per resident, or 250 SF in low-density districts. The Council had considered minimum lot size requirements but ultimately decided that was unnecessary.

Three types of co-ops are identified: 1) Not-for-Profit Permanently Affordable Cooperative, 2) Private Equity Cooperative, and 3) Rental Cooperative. A Not-for-Profit Permanently Affordable Cooperative is a rental cooperative owned by a 501(c)(3) corporation with a housing focus. All rents must be affordable to households earning 60 percent of the Area Median Income. A Private Equity Cooperative is a cooperative in which two-thirds of the owners are residents and two-thirds of the residents are owners. A Rental Cooperative is a cooperative in which more than one-third of the residents are renters.

Licenses will be renewed every four years, but a licensee must be recertified and have a renewal inspection every two years. There are no grandfathering provisions for existing illegal cooperatives. However, cooperatives in existence on December 6, 2016 will be permitted to apply for a cooperative license while still occupying the same home.

All co-ops must submit a plan to limit on-street parking to no more than three cars. Co-ops in neighborhoods with permit parking zones are limited to three residential permits.

Given the requirements, it doesn’t seem likely Boulder will see an explosion of co-ops. Nevertheless, some residents remain adamantly opposed to the concept arguing it will lead to property value depreciation, crowding, and noise and are already threatening a referendum. Advocates are pleased with the outcome, arguing coops are an affordable housing solution in the region’s most expensive city.

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