A recent survey that calculated the affordability of cities when it comes to housing, ranked Boulder in the top five for “least affordable” – behind Honolulu, Hawaii and three cities in California. That’s not “news” for long-time residents, but as KGNU’s Roz Brown reports, another reason the city is hoping a new Housing Advisory Board will add a fresh perspective to a longstanding problem.
Thirty-four City of Boulder residents are now being interviewed for five seats on the new board.
“It’s gotten to the point where everything is very polarized and I’m trying to bring people back together,” said Boulder City Councilmember Lisa Morzel.
Morzel has broad support from council to launch a permanent housing advisory board – an idea she’s been pushing for more than a decade.
“I believe in people and I think people have to be part of the solution,” said Morzel. “We need to objectively understand what we’re trying to accomplish on housing and who we want to be in 20 years.”
The city already has six boards devoted to housing issues: the Affordable Housing Technical Review Group, the Community Development Advisory Committee, the HOME Consortium, the Homeownership Committee, the Planning Board and the Homeless Strategy Board. But Jeff Yegian with the city’s planning, housing and sustainability office says the new group will have a specific mission.
“The Housing Advisory Board will expand the city’s capacity to develop and implement effective responses to Boulder’s housing challenges, primarily affordability, diversity and accessibility and accelerate progress toward the city’s adopted housing plans, strategies and goals.”
Yegian says the housing advisory board is expected to begin work in April so having such a large pool of applicants is advantageous.
“This level of interest really highlights the importance to our community of tackling housing challenges.”
In studying the issue, Morzel said she learned that many other cities – including college towns like Lawrence, Kansas – have similar advisory boards on housing, and believes Boulder’s move in that direction is long overdue.
“I really wanted to open this up for the public because I believe in the public. We have a democracy and we need to follow the people.”
The housing advisory board will start with five members, but to create as much diversity as possible it may be expanded to seven members if voters approve a charter change in the next election.
Morzel and other councilmembers have expressed optimism that the new citizen housing advisory board will help demystify Boulder’s frequently complex process of housing development.