At long last, after more than 2.5 years of hard work, a new ordinance that could enable housing cooperatives in Boulder is headed to City Council. But first, it will make a stop at Planning Board for a public hearing. That meeting will be held in City Council chambers at 1777 Broadway, and begins at 6pm, Thursday, April 21st, 2016. It is likely that opponents of shared housing will be attending this meeting and speaking out against enabling cooperatives. Please come and show your support for affordable, sustainable, shared, community oriented housing in Boulder.
If you can’t attend, please contact Planning Board & City Council, and emphasize the points below. Letters to the Editor of the Daily Camera would also be useful.
- Email Planning Board at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Email City Council at: email@example.com
- Send Letters to the Editor to: firstname.lastname@example.org (300 words or less, include your name, address, and phone number — only name and city will be published.)
You can also RSVP to and share this event on Facebook.
Tell Planning Board & City Council to Support Housing Co-ops:
- Council should enable co-ops which are owned by residents (private equity), non-profits (group equity) and private landlords (rental).
- Co-ops that own their property need to have the right to continue living in their homes indefinitely, even if the enabling legislation is repealed.
Except in cases of ongoing uncured negligent behavior, it should not be possible to take someone’s home away from them. Making private & group equity cooperatives impermanent will also make it difficult, if not impossible, to finance permanently affordable housing co-ops.
- In private equity co-ops, allow a mix of renters and owners, so long as the majority of residents are owners, and absentee ownership is limited.
We need some flexibility in who can own shares of a private equity co-op. Allowing a minority of residents to be renters, and a minority of owners to live outside the co-op will enable smoother community transitions, and increase income diversity within the home, while ensuring that it behaves like an owner occupied dwelling.
- Enable at least 10 people per cooperative household, via an occupancy limit that allows one resident for every 150 square feet of habitable space.
High occupancy is what makes co-ops affordable and sustainable. It is also what makes household governance and community function well. Allowing one resident per 150sf of habitable space would enable the existing co-ops we know of in Boulder.
- Ensure that rental co-ops have access to a large proportion of the rental market. Eliminate the proposed rent caps for co-ops.
Rent caps that only allow rental co-ops in properties where landlords are willing to charge well below market rents will inhibit co-op formation. Excluding co-ops from single-family residential zones would dramatically reduce the available properties.
- Give rental co-ops bargaining power in the housing market, by requiring rental co-op licenses to be held jointly by a property owner and the co-op group.
Putting rental co-op licenses solely in the hands of property owners will give landlords pricing power, driving up co-op rents, and reducing co-op autonomy.
- Create an ordinance that provides fair and predictable mechanisms for limiting neighborhood impacts including parking, noise, trash, and weeds.
Allowing unsubstantiated complaints to initiate a co-op license revocation process which gives a great deal of discretion to the City Manager introduces an unacceptable level of risk into co-op ownership, and may have impacts on financing availability.
Background on the Process So Far
This work began in earnest in the fall of 2013 with the opening of the BHC’s Ostara Cooperative and a City Council candidate forum at one of Boulder’s independent co-ops. Since then we’ve participated in the city’s housing policy process, engaged with the broader community at neighborhood meetings and open houses (both the City’s, and our own), held another Council Candidate Forum, and put out our own voter guide for the 2015 election. We got nearly 100 people out to a Council meeting last September to protest “enhanced enforcement” of the laws that make co-ops generally illegal today, and Council granted a last minute moratorium on enforcement of those laws against co-ops after one of the independent co-ops was reported for being “over occupied.”
After all that, finally, on January 26th of this year City Council held a study session on housing cooperatives, and how they might be enabled (you can watch a video of that discussion online if you like, or check out Council’s briefing packet). At the study session, Council directed the City Attorney to draft a new ordinance which would enable housing co-ops, based on the policy proposals that BoCHA had brought forward. In our opinion the first draft had a variety of serious issues, both from the point of view of enabling co-ops, and limiting their impacts on the neighborhoods that they are a part of. In the past few weeks we’ve been working with the City Attorney to improve the draft ordinance, but it’s still not where we would like it to be.
Planning Board will make a recommendation to City Council on the content of the proposed ordinance, how they think it should be changed, and whether they think it should be adopted. City Council is currently scheduled to hold a first reading and public hearing on the draft ordinance at their Tuesday, May 17th meeting. We will post more details related to that meeting as the date approaches.
For more information:
- Check out the Planning Board packet on the draft cooperative housing ordinance,
- read our letter responding to that packet, and
- compare the City Attorney’s proposal with BoCHA’s proposal in this table.