The Affordable Housing Crisis In Boulder

Affordable housing is an ongoing issue for Boulder County and particularly the city of Boulder where the cost of owning and renting a home has become un-affordable for many.

The Bell Policy Center last year issued a report that showed home prices in Boulder county had gone up by 11.2 percent which is nearly double the U.S. average of 6 percent. That same report showed that the household hourly wage needed to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Boulder is nearly $24 per hour. However the average renter in Colorado makes only $17 per hour.

The city has an affordability index which tags affordable rent to the area median income (AMI). But many people are finding that their wages are far short of that AMI and they’re getting left even further behind in the housing crisis. KGNU’s Maeve Conran met one such family – Meagan and Ruy Arango who have lived in their Boulder apartment for 3 years. They were some of the first tenants to move into the Depot Square, Boulder Junction development. They moved from Washington DC so that Meagan could attend graduate school.

Listen to the Arangos talk about struggling to afford rent in Boulder:

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“It was difficult to find housing from afar and we were very surprised to realize that the Boulder housing market wasn’t much better than the DC housing market.”

In the past 3 years the building has changed owners 3 times. The current owner is Avanath Capitol Management. In May the Arango’s got a letter from their landlord saying they are facing a 7% increase in their rent.

The City of Boulder used to have renter protections that would have addressed this problem prior to 2012. Those protections prevented landlords from raising the rent more than 3% in a given year.

Now affordable housing is often linked to the Affordable Median Income which Meagan Arango says doesn’t fairly represent most people in the city.

“Our wages just aren’t going up at pace with the Area Median Income and the statistics bear it out that the majority of people who are moving to Boulder County are making more than $200,000 a year, it’s not people like us.”

The Arango’s are paying approximately $1150 a month including a pet fee for their dog, but a parking fee and utilities add to that. While they’re both working full time it’s a stretch for them to afford the rent and they fear they’ll soon be priced out of the city.

“We all understand that there’s runaway gentrification taking place here and that the future of Boulder no one steps in and the city doesn’t step in, is going to be the future of San Francisco with a similarly inhumane homeless problem with rents that no one except incredibly wealthy people can afford, and every other worker turned into a migrant who commutes into work to make the city run and then has to commute all the way back home to some faraway place and I think that’s not a very bright future.”

KGNU reached out to the City of Boulder for a response to the Arangos’ situation. Kurt Fernhaber is Boulder Director of Housing and Human Services and he offered some insight into how Boulder has regulated affordable housing rent in the past and what advice the city has for people struggling to pay rent in even affordable housing.

Listen to the interview with Kurt Fernhaber here:

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