History of the Boulder Housing Coalition
The Boulder Housing Coalition is a 501(c)3 non-profit Community Housing Development Organization. It was initially formed in 1996 to facilitate the creation of a student co-op system at the University of Colorado in Boulder. A poor financing environment and legal disagreements with the president of the university led to that plan eventually failing, but the organization was re-imagined as an umbrella community oriented affordable housing developer. In 2002 it acquired the Masala Co-op at 744 Marine Street, which had previously been an equity cooperative called Slovo. In 2004 it purchased the Chrysalis Co-op at 2127 16th Street, a rental co-op which was at risk of being disbanded by the sale of the property by its owner.
Formation of the Boulder Housing Coalition
In 1995 Will Toor, the director of the University of Colorado Environmental Center, tasked the then Co-op Coordinator Lincoln Miller with a mission to, “Create co-ops on campus and create co-ops off campus”. In order to create co-ops off campus Will and Lincoln formed a non-profit organization called the Boulder Housing Coalition (BHC). In 1996 the Boulder Housing Coalition hosted the first annual Boulder Co-op Summit for about 20 people at the Brick House Co-op. One of them was Ben Lipman. Ben was the director of the Solstice Institute, a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to creating sustainable community in Boulder. They agreed to sponsor the BHC and give us free office space. At the next Co-op Summit Jim Harrington got involved. Ben found a way to hire Jim as an Americorps: VISTA Volunteer. Jim got federal tax exempt 501(c)3 and Community Housing Development Organization status for the BHC, and the BHC president Cedar Barstow kept the organization moving forward. The organization applied for two grants from the city of Boulder to create affordable cooperatives but we were turned down.
Meanwhile a CU student co-op project was also moving forward under the auspices of the CU Students for Cooperative Housing which formed a Working Group with campus administrators, students, housing staff and student government representatives. The group decided to run a student referendum that would ask each of the 25,000 students to give $2 per semester for 4 years. This would raise 100,000 a year for student co-ops. Around this time an old friend of Will Toor's named Tony Sanny came to the University of Colorado to study Business and Law. Tony and Will knew each other from their time in the Chicago co-op system. Tony Sanny moved in to a rental co-op called Limpopo, where Lincoln lived, and they began working on the CU student co-op referendum. In 1998 the referendum passed by a mere 200 votes and Tony took over as the new CU campus co-op coordinator. The Students for Cooperative Housing had a guarantee of $400,000 to create co-ops but still needed approval from the University of Colorado Board of Regents to actually collect the money. They also needed to find a property to purchase.
Birth of the Masala Cooperative
Around this time in 1999 the residents of the Slovo equity co-op (including Will Toor) were looking to sell their house at 744 Marine Street, but they wanted the house to remain a co-op. Tony Sanny worked with NASCO Properties, the development arm of the North American Students of Cooperation, to find short term financing which would allow them to acquire the house and hold it while the money from the student co-op referendum was collected, and to give the Students for Cooperative Housing time to build administrative support for the planned student co-op system. NASCO Properties use a combination of deferred interest loans, a line of credit from the National Cooperative Bank and a $70,000 equity gift from the Slovo residents to buy the house. With this arrangement they could only hold the property, which was re-named the Masala Cooperative, for two years.
The CU Students for Cooperative Housing developed a plan to create a non-profit that would use the referendum money in combination with university loans to buy the Masala Co-op from NASCO Properties and start the first student cooperative housing system in Colorado. The Student Government, The Treasurer of the University, the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, two members of the Board of Regents and all the top university financial brass supported the plan. However, without the support of the office of the President, the group could not go before the Board of Regents and ask for final approval. The attorney for the Office of the President refused to sign off on the plan for liability reasons. Instead, she favored a plan that would give complete control of the student co-op system to the University and take an additional 18 months to implement. At this point NASCO Properties had already obtained a one year extension on the deferred interest loans and the financing could not be extended any further. Within nine months they would be forced to sell the house to the highest bidder. Then the 2001 Colorado state debt crisis hit, meaning that only the highest priority University projects would be eligible to receive loans, and the student co-ops were not on the list of potential projects. At this point for all practical purposes the student co-op project was dead.
Later that year, with time running out, the participants in the Boulder Housing Coalition's 6th Annual Co-op Summit found themselves wondering what could be done to save Masala. Will Toor, who had since become the mayor of Boulder, rode up on his bicycle and said "Go for another city grant." Plan B became buying Masala from NASCO Properties with grant money as the down payment to establish the first house in a community-wide co-op federation. In May of 2002 the Boulder Housing Coalition purchased Masala with a $435,000 loan from Vectra Bank, using a $102,000 grant from the city of Boulder and the Slovo Co-op's $70,000 equity gift as the down payment, creating the first permanently affordable rental cooperative in the state of Colorado. The project also received $2,500 in private donations and $2,000 from the Community Foundation.
Over a seven year period it took the combined efforts of The Boulder Housing Coalition, The Solstice Institute, NASCO & NASCO Properties, AmeriCorps, The Fellowship for Intentional Communities, The Kagawa Fund, The National Cooperative Bank, The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, The University of Colorado Student Environmental Center, The members of Slovo and Masala Cooperatives, Thistle Community Housing, The Enterprise Foundation, The Institute for Community Economics and numerous volunteers working for hundreds of hours to get a first co-op for the system.
Welcoming Chrysalis into the BHC
The Chrysalis Cooperative was initially organized in 1997. They found themselves at risk of being disbanded in 2004 when the owner of the 13 bedroom house at 2127 16th Street decided they wanted to sell. In 2004 the BHC purchased its second permanently affordable rental cooperative. The BHC was able to purchase the house using a $110,000 grant from the city of Boulder as part of the down payment and a tax-exempt bond issue from the City of Boulder to re-finance Masala purchase Chrysalis, rolling both properties into the same loan from US Bank. By joining the BHC Chrysalis became permanently affordable housing, and no longer needs to worry about whether the property will be sold out from under them.