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Discussion for Appropriate Rental Regulations in Boulder Continues

Discussion for Appropriate Rental Regulations in Boulder Continues

Scott Rowland • September 16, 2015 • Progression • 

What happens when a housing ordinance proposes stricter occupancy regulations for members of a community already juggling relatively high housing costs? In Boulder, active community members show up to convey concerns when the ongoing debate about rental regulations is on the agenda.

Yesterday, Boulder County City Council met to discuss an ordinance proposal that would impose tougher regulations on rental properties. Both the homeowner and the tenant would be required to abide by new laws or face unavoidable consequences such as evictions or fines according to the following proposal:

1. Require posting of legal occupancy at all rental locations.

2. Require notation of legal occupancy on all rental licenses.

3. Encourage the use of administrative remedies for over-occupancy violations by increasing sanctions and modifying defenses.

4. Prohibit advertisement for either sale or rental of occupancy in excess of the occupancy set forth in the rental licensing database.

5. Require proof of any nonconforming occupancy to be made at time of rental license application or renewal. In the absence of proof, occupancy would be set at the base occupancy for the zone district.

6. Eliminate the non-conforming occupancy provision in Section 9-8-5(c), B.C.R. 1981 (“Occupancy of Dwelling Units”).

7. In the alternative, add a condition to Section 9-8-5(c) restricting application to units that were legally occupied and licensed for rental during the entire period of nonconforming occupancy.

The underlying discussion stems from occupancy restrictions imposed in the 60s that only allow for three unrelated inhabitants per rental regardless of size or necessity. These restrictions imply that Boulder’s view on sustainability, affordability and community appreciation extends to residents who can abide by the cities regulations, but not necessarily those who benefit the community.

Alexander Hatuom, a student government member in the PhD program for Behavioral Genetics at CU, says, “I almost considered another graduate program, so in terms of graduate students, if you keep making the cost of living higher, you are going to lose a lot of the brain power in Boulder…. You are gonna make CU Boulder generally less competitive.” He goes on to say that these regulations “hurt the people who have the least money. That would be minority students or graduate students in my case.”

Whether financial constraints extend to non-profit workers who barely make a livable wage or CU students relying on government loans to pay rent at a 4.66% interest rate, there is an undeniably high cost of living affecting Boulder residents. But is it really worth deterring intellectuals like Hatuom away by enacting stricter regulations when other options are available?

Traditional housing is not for everyone, and it makes the city “boring” says Oren Franklin, a 31-year-old teacher and co-op resident. “Communal housing means working together and contributing to the greater good of the household,” Franklin continues to say. “I don’t really see myself as the kind of person that is going to assimilate into a marriage lifestyle or kids. That’s not really me. So I would prefer to live in a household that is more community oriented because that’s where I thrive.”

Proactive Boulder Resident1 - Oren Franklin - September 2015 City Council Meeting

Oren Franklin

Tradesman and homeowner Damian Leuthold, a 43-year-old sandblaster, claims that the regulations “force people into the model of a more single family home”. He goes on to propose that, “There is a narrow band of housing which is acceptable, and it limits to that standard of looking at things”.

But Boulder is a community facing overpopulation while it restricts city size. It’s also an issue for those who love the quaint feel of Boulder Valley. There is something special about living here, an undeniable appeal and a progressive community structure found nowhere else on earth. Which is why nobody wants to leave. As Franklin so bluntly states, “I would be missing a lot of awesome people!”

So, where do the residents go when they can’t make ends meet and abide by the laws? According to Leuthold, “Historically in Boulder, it’s the surrounding communities that receive the overflow population of laborers. It used to be the mine owners who lived here, and the miners would live out in Lafayette and Broomfield. It just presses everyone out of Boulder and makes it harder to live here for those who don’t have the money.”

Boulder Proactive Resident2 - Damian Leuthold - City Council meeting September 2015

Damian Leuthold

After five-and-a-half hours of deliberation and over 90 people casting their opinions on the matter, the city council made a reasonable motion to postpone making a final decision. This issue is a delicate one that affects thousands of Boulder residents, and it’s best to find a solution that everyone can agree on.

Overall, many feel disenfranchised and caste aside while others view this situation as beneficial to keeping housing costs down, maintaining an appropriate noise level and providing a solution to the ongoing parking issue. Restricting the number of buildings for housing is a reasonable approach to limiting the population, but low-income Boulder residents are obviously feeling pressure and actively showing support for what they believe in: a home in Boulder.

City Council meeting occurred on September 15th, 2015.

Recording of City Council Meeting


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