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.