Virtually all of Boulder County’s local governments have their own, individual plans to reverse the diminishing supply of affordable housing in their respective communities.  But these local governments are now weighing a new approach: collaborating and coordinating with one another in a way that, if successful, would supply more affordable housing to the county than the total that will be provided if each of them continues acting independently.

At the Boulder County Consortium of Cities meeting last Wednesday, a working group of local government housing and community services agencies presented a draft of the Boulder County Regional Affordable Housing Strategic Plan (the “Plan”). Currently, the county’s cities and towns have plans that would increase the county’s aggregate affordable housing inventory by 6,000 units by 2035.  By contrast, due to the efficiencies gained through regional cooperation, the Plan calls for an increase of 15,000 to 22,000 units in that same time.  The initial reaction from members of the consortium was positive, stating that the Plan’s regional approach has “traction.”

Local governments will spend the coming months reviewing the Plan in more detail and providing feedback before a proposed final version is presented to the consortium, which may occur in April.

A photograph of Lot E, the parcel that is the subject of the Murrs’ dispute. Source: eenews.net.

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court set oral argument for March 20, 2017 in the case of Murr v. Wisconsin, in which the Court is being asked to determine what constitutes the “relevant parcel” in determining whether a regulatory taking of private property has occurred.  The Court’s decision in Murr, expected this summer, may significantly affect private parties’ ability to bring takings claims when government actions render portions—as opposed to the entirety—of the parties’ property unusable or undevelopable.

Two parcels of property located along Lake St. Croix in Wisconsin are the subject of Murr.  The two waterfront parcels, each of which are just over an acre in area, were platted in 1959.  The Murr family purchased one of the parcels (Lot F), and subsequently purchased the other parcel (Lot E) in 1963.  The Murrs built a family cabin on Lot F, and Lot E has remained vacant ever since.  The Murrs held title to Lot F in their family business, while they held title to Lot E under their personal names.  In 1994, the family business conveyed Lot F to their six children, and in 1995, Lot E was also conveyed to the children.  Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Set to Hear Oral Argument in Takings Case

Of all the various restrictions on development in Boulder, among the most impactful—and, to citizens, important—is the restriction on building height.  Based on a joint study session between the Boulder City Council and the Planning Board last Tuesday, those restrictions may be changing.

The current height restriction regime is multilayered. Boulder’s charter restricts building height to 55 feet, except for buildings in the Twenty Ninth Street area. The city’s zoning ordinance further restricts building height to 35 feet in most of Boulder, to 38 feet downtown, and to 40 feet in industrial areas.

Up until April 2015, property owners could request a height modification of up to 55 feet.  But that’s when the city adopted a two-year moratorium that barred the city from considering such a modification request unless the subject property is in a select few areas of the city, including Boulder Junction, the University Hill commercial district, the Armory site in north Boulder, Gunbarrel Community Center and Twenty Ninth Street. (Certain properties and projects were also exempted from the moratorium, including, projects with at least 40 percent affordable housing and sites with slope challenges that affect how height is calculated.)  That moratorium is set to expire in April.

At the joint study session last week, four of the nine city council members supported extending the  moratorium, and four others were unsure. Planning Board members were more strongly in favor of extending the moratorium but had not determined the exact terms of a renewed ordinance.  The city’s interim director of planning, housing and sustainability indicated, however, that the groups did agree on this: “even if someone supports extending the ordinance, that there are some areas that it needs to be tweaked and amended.”

In an effort to encourage licensing, Denver has streamlined its website and placed advertisements on popular social media networks.
In an effort to encourage licensing, Denver has streamlined its website and placed advertisements on popular social media networks.

Enforcement of Denver’s short-term rental regulations, which were passed in the summer of 2016, started January 1, 2017.  However, not all hosts seem to have gotten the message, with only about 18 percent of Denver properties on Airbnb including their license numbers in the listing—a requirement under the new regulations.  Continue Reading Hosts of Short-Term Rentals Slow to Obtain Licenses, Face Hefty Fines

The housing crunch in Colorado, and specifically, in Boulder, is well documented.  Last week Boulder’s City Council took a small and controversial step towards easing that crunch within its limits by finalizing and approving a co-operative housing ordinance.

The ordinance allows for the licensing of 10 new co-operatives each year commencing in 2017 year, including rental, nonprofit and equity co-operatives. In Boulder’s low-, medium-, and high-density zoning districts, co-operatives will be capped at 12, 15, and 15 occupants, respectively. All co-operatives must offer at least 200 square feet per resident.  There is no lot-size requirement.  The city manager will have authority to revoke co-operative licenses.

Despite the fact that the new co-operatives will account for a fraction of Boulder’s 40,000 housing units, co-operatives have been one of the city’s most divisive topics since it was broached in January 2016. City council deliberated on the issue for 12 months, received thousands of public comments, and held four long and crowded public hearings, with the final vote coming at 1 a.m. in front of a packed City Council chambers.  Supporters argue that co-operatives offer a sustainable solution to the affordable housing shortage and an option for the increasing demand for alternative living arrangements.  Opponents contend that the co-operatives will spoil the character of their single-family household neighbors.   Boulder, however, has promised to closely monitor co-operatives to ensure they are complying with the ordinance; councilman Matt Appelbaum, who voted in favor of the ordinance, stated that co-operatives “are going to be the most closely watched houses in the city of Boulder. Probably in the city’s history.

Boulder is expected to formally adopt the ordinance at the City Council’s January 17 meeting.  Once that occurs, the city must be prepared to issue licenses within six months.