Is Cooperative Living Illegal in Boulder?
Last night, a new movement launched at Boulder City Council advocating for housing policies that support affordable housing and cooperative living.
The city of Boulder has an occupancy ordinance that limits the number of “unrelated” adults living in a single-family home to a maximum of three or four. This means that if a house has five bedrooms, it is officially illegal for each bedroom to be rented by one or more unrelated people.
The city council has been reviewing this ordinance, and there is a proposal to increase the fines and regulations to further bolster this occupancy policy–including fining anyone who advertises a shared rental for more than the allotted residents.
The public hearing last night was overflowing with advocates opposing the occupancy limit, and the council decided to table the conversation for a future meeting.
The main argument in support of this policy is a concern that single family neighborhoods are threatened by economic incentives to turn single family homes into high occupancy rental properties. Other concerns from ordinance supporters include the possibility for increased traffic, parking, noise and trash in single family neighborhoods when a rental has what the city deems as an excessive number of “unrelated” residents.
Opponents feel that the ordinance is discriminatory. They largely represent low-income residents who cannot afford to live in Boulder unless they are able to live in a shared rental. There’s also a contingent of communitarians who prefer to live cooperatively for reasons above-and-beyond finances, such as sharing meals, co-parenting, carpooling etc..
The irony is both sides of the debate cite rising housing costs as their primary concern. However, the particular strategy of this ordinance has little to do with pricing and much more to do with demographics.
By limiting the number of “unrelated” residents, the city is making it more difficult for students and other low-income residents to live in single family homes and neighborhoods. A family of ten could live in a two bedroom home legally, but five students can’t legally share a five bedroom house.
Since the council has opted to delay their decision, advocates are encouraging people who care about this issue to send emails and attend future meetings (get details at https://bouldercolorado.gov/city-council).
The Mayor acknowledged that last night’s public hearing turn-out represented a demographic that is rarely involved in local decision-making, including more youth voices than usual. This was organized by a new community platform called “Evolve Boulder” that aims to increase civic engagement in support of more progressive solutions for sustainability, justice and inclusivity.
Last night was Evolve Boulder’s first public action, and it included a community prayer circle, poetry, songs and other creative ways to make civic engagement more accessible for community members that traditionally have had little role in local decision-making. To learn more about Evolve Boulder, visit their Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1687740808113936/.