LONGMONT (Sept. 24) – Members of Boulder County’s city councils, town boards and Board of County Commissioners and their staffs are to assemble in Longmont on Friday morning for three hours of discussions about whether a collaborative approach could increase their constituents’ access to affordable-housing opportunities.

That “Affordable Housing Summit,” according to the Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership group that’s been promoting such an approach, will try to involve all of Boulder County’s government jurisdictions in addressing countywide affordable housing shortages.

Board of County Commissioners Chairwoman Deb Gardner, who is to give the welcoming remarks at Friday’s event, said organizers hope to give the city and town representatives “a good sense” of how local adoptions of a multi-jurisdictional adoption and implementation of a regional plan could ensure a diverse inventory of affordable housing throughout Boulder County.

Gardner said another goal of the summit will be to start coming up with a menu of “concrete things that might happen” to accomplish that housing goal.

While Friday’s meeting will be open to public attendance, it will not include a formal public-comment period for people – other than the elected officials and their staff – to express their ideas about the proposed regional approach.

Gardner said public-comment opportunities will likely happen later, when the city and town and county officials meet to consider adopting a regional plan and making any appropriate changes in their local land use, zoning, building and development codes.

At this point, the Regional Housing Partnership’s draft affordable housing plan “is a non-binding plan,” Gardner said.

However, “If we’re really serious about building more affordable housing in Boulder County, we need goals and plans for getting there,” she said.

Combination of strategies
The Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership is a working group formed in 2016 that has included members and input from such agencies as the Boulder County Housing Authority, the Longmont Housing Authority, Boulder Housing Partners, Longmont’s Community Services Department, Boulder’s Division of Housing of Housing, Boulder County’s Community Services Department, the Boulder Community Investment Program and the Boulder Chamber of Commerce.

It has recommended setting a countywide goal of having 12 percent of the region’s total housing inventory permanently affordable to low-moderate and middle-income households by 2035 – about 12,000 affordable homes.

“This goal requires securing 800 homes a year for 15 years, which would be achieved through a combination of acquisition, redevelopment and new construction,” according to a recent draft of the partnership’s proposed plan.

A possible distribution of that year-2035 affordable-housing inventory, the draft plan suggests, would be 100 homes in the Nederland and Lyons and mountain region, 5,000 homes in the northeast county Longmont area, 7,000 homes in the central county’s Boulder, Gunbarrel and Niwot area, and 3,000 southeast county homes in the Lafayette, Louisville, Superior and Erie area.

The partnership has recommended that goals be set for the inventory of both rental and home-owned units, with 30 percent of the homes acquired or built to be for owner-occupancy and the rest for rentals.

Another goal would be to bolster financial resources, increasing local funding sources by $20 million a year to invest in community housing and attract additional funding from the private sector and state and federal sources.

Current local funding sources produce about $15 million a year to support creation of affordable housing.

Act upon values
Land for housing is increasingly scarce in Boulder County communities, the draft plan says, and securing land and prioritizing its use for community housing are key requirements to meeting the proposed regional affordable housing inventory goal.

The partnership said in its recent draft plan that while each Boulder County community has already acknowledged affordable housing as a community value in its local comprehensive plan, the partnership is encouraging communities “to act upon those value statements by reviewing and aligning their regulatory processes to create a more favorable environment for community housing.

“Regulatory alignment includes increasing incentives, reducing barriers and creating requirements through annexation and inclusionary housing policies.”

The partnership has reported that increases in home prices in Boulder County have outpaced growth in wages for nearly two decades.

“Across Boulder County, price inflation has pushed over 30,000 homes out of reach for low- to middle-income households since 2000. Vacancy rates are below historic averages and below what is considered a balanced market,” according the recent draft plan.

Added to that has been a loss of residential homes due to the 2013 flood, which put additional pressure on the housing market, as well as the evolution of major employment centers in the cities of Boulder and Longmont in recent years,” which the plan said “has fueled housing costs by increasing the area’s population.

“And this in turn has deepened transportation challenges as larger numbers of employees seek less expensive housing and are forced to commute longer distances.”

Jim Williams, communications director for Boulder County’s Housing and Human Services Department and a spokesman for the Regional Housing Partnership, said the partnership has made about 40 presentations of its proposed plan to local governments and community and business organizations since last February.

The latest update of the partnership’s draft regional plan is expected to be posted online sometime this coming week, he said.

“The point of the summit is to bring everybody together” from the county’s elected boards and councils, Williams said, for those officeholders to discuss how Boulder County communities “can come together and work collectively” in addressing affordable-housing needs.

By John Fryar, Times-Call (TNS)
John Fryar: 303.684.5211, [email protected] or twitter.com/jfryartc.