Citizen Advisory Board to Address Affordable Housing

Sean KendallDiversity

PLAN-Boulder supports the creation of a permanent citizen advisory board to address affordable housing. The purpose of the Affordable Housing Advisory Board would be to study, review and advise City Council on issues affecting affordable housing development in the City and to provide oversight and consistency in housing decisions.

Complex issues like concentration of affordable and homeless housing in one part of town, cash-in-lieu and offsite housing via IZ and alternative approaches to calculating IZ requirements would best be handled by a council-appointed ongoing affordable housing board. This board would make recommendations to Council on major goals of the affordable housing program.

Currently, there is no such board in the city and day-to-day practical and policy decisions are made by city staff, the housing non-profits and occasionally by major Council policy revisions. Both Thistle and Boulder Housing Partners have boards of their own, but they are not designed to affect overall housing policy in the City.

We also believe that a permanent Affordable Housing Board is needed to deal with a situation that is constantly changing. The city has a range of tools available to them including density bonuses, certain fee waivers and subsidies and regulatory land use incentives. All, none or a combination of these tools can be used to encourage more affordable housing development. A dedicated board is needed for oversight and consistency in such decisions.

For example, Council recently approved density bonuses for commercial office development in downtown, with a linkage fee to fund the affordable housing program. This is a huge policy shift for Boulder that has major implications for the style of development in the downtown, overall funding of affordable housing, impacts on any proposed tax that affects the commercial sector and the type of housing that will be built with the linkage fees. If an affordable housing board were in place, it would make recommendations on the use of this new linkage fee regarding the location, type, number and income targets for units produced.

Boulder needs a dedicated board that consistently represents the people and community as a whole. The city charter states that board and commission appointees should be “well known for their ability, probity, public spirit, and particular fitness to serve …” Probity is defined as integrity or uprightness. Following the charter, we believe this board should be comprised of individuals that have no fiscal or fiduciary conflicts of interests.