Kathy Fedler, Longmont’s Housing and Community Investment Division Manager and Frank Alexander, Boulder County’s Director of Housing and Human Services, presented the Boulder County Regional Housing Strategic Plan at last week’s City Council study session. The goal of the plan is to create 150,000 affordable units within the County. Fedler and Alexander emphasized the plan’s focus on a common vision with each community adopting strategies appropriate for its needs. (A more detailed summary of the plan is available in my May 10th update.)
Predictably the Councilors most enthusiastic about the plan were Polly Christensen and Joan Peck. Christensen noted businesses can’t do anything without employees and said affordable housing is ultimately an economic development tool. She explained that while wages have been flat since 1972, real estate profits have skyrocketed. Peck was less abrasive, suggesting one option would be to redevelop vacant commercial properties that can’t be rented, turning them into housing units. She wondered if other communities have considered that option.
Other Council members seemed curious but weren’t convinced the plan could solve the County’s housing needs. Mayor Coombs said housing is a balancing act and stated attracting middle-income employees to Longmont was equally important. Jeff Moore echoed that comment, saying Longmont needs to support housing for all levels of income. Bonnie Finley complemented the plan for its collaborative approach but said it’s easy to spend other peoples’ money. She commented that it didn’t appear that developers or Realtors® were involved and emphasized those whose incomes would be affected should also be at the table. (Fedler said the real estate community will be invited to participate in the future.)
The Council finished its discussion by talking about a housing summit for elected officials on September 8. Some Council members will be out of town and asked City Manager Harold Dominguez to find another date. Apparently, the date had been selected without feedback from elected officials, which irritated Council member Gabe Santos. Later, Fedler said the date may change. She added that she isn’t sure the Realtors® will be invited to participate in the summit, saying there may be additional meetings planned to gather input from non-elected officials.