Allow More Community Housing in Boulder

Dear City Council (,

Zane SelvansI understand that May 14th you will be studying the question of Boulder’s developing barbell shaped income distribution, and the issue of supplying moderately affordable housing for folks in Boulder’s middle-income brackets.

From today’s Daily Camera article my sense is that the focus of the discussion is likely to be on the supply of detached single-family homes, which for many years have been the housing option of choice for families in the US.

However, I think that this is really too narrow a focus. Co-housing developments like Wild Sage in North Boulder and housing cooperatives like the ones developed by the Boulder Housing Coalition make use of multi-dwelling buildings, and yet can provide many of the amenities that draw families to detached houses, especially quiet outdoor spaces that are safe for children, and a sense of neighborhood community. They can also be much more resource efficient than standard single-family dwellings. Looking further afield, one can find examples of entire neighborhoods designed with these goals in mind, like Quartier Vauban, in Freiburg, Germany.

These relatively high density (for Boulder) community and family oriented housing options might not be for everybody, but there is a hunger for more of them in Boulder. The Housing Co-ops developed by the Boulder Housing Coalition (whose board I sit on) are regularly over-subscribed by a factor of 2 or 3 when we seek out new members. Our new 22-26 member co-op in the old BHP apartment building at the corner of 9th and North will likely be completely leased within a month. We should work to make creating more of them easier and more cost-effective than it is today. Current zoning regulations — especially our out-dated, 1950s vintage parking requirements — too often make the creation of this type of housing difficult, prohibitively expensive, or simply impossible. This is in many ways at odds with a lot of the city’s high level policy statements surrounding transportation mode choices, sustainability, and affordable housing.

I hope that we can work together to make the creation of more community and family oriented multi-unit housing a reality in Boulder.

Thank you for your time and attention,
Zane Selvans

(TAB member and Boulder Housing Coalition board member, speaking on my own behalf)