Boulder Weekly: Co-op Conundrum

Jan Trussell’s column got it exactly right: A vocal, self-selected group of activists is coercing City Council into granting them a special privilege — at the expense of residents in every existing neighborhood of Boulder. The co-op advocates’ resort to name-calling and labeling is unhelpful. But the biggest problem is that City Council is swallowing the co-op story whole, without asking critical questions:

Why are we creating something that will have very little benefit in terms of affordable housing, yet will put still more pressure on middle-class housing availability? Why do we need to define umpteen different types of co-op all at once? Why not start with a single model that everyone can understand, a real ownership co-op, instead of experimenting with untried concepts like so-called “rental co-ops”?

How can we prevent the extreme occupancy of a co-op from causing a domino effect on neighborhoods, as neighboring families decide to move out and find that their only good option is to convert their house into another high-occupancy rental? Why are we giving an incentive to investor landlords to snap up single-family homes and turn them into lucrative high-occupancy boarding houses?

Why is it OK to allow 10 to 15 people to take over a house in the midst of a low/medium-density zoned neighborhood? Why should people that moved into neighborhoods specifically for their low-density characteristics be subjected to the high-density hubbub of a crowded co-op next door, and not at least have a chance to voice their concerns in advance?

Why can’t high-density co-ops be placed in high-density areas of the City, instead of being plopped down into middle-class, low- and medium-density residential neighborhoods? Why can’t we re-purpose areas of the city, like the former hospital site, and set up co-op or co-housing opportunities that would not erode existing stable neighborhoods?

How can we ensure that legalized rental co-ops won’t abuse their extraordinary privilege by operating as AirBnBs, boarding houses, couch-surfer havens and traveler’s hostels? How in the world could rental co-ops like Picklebric, with their revolving door of short-term, transient boarders and couch-surfers, possibly contribute to neighborhood stability? How can we enforce any of this, when we can’t even begin to enforce occupancy limits and other rental regulations?City Council won’t ask these questions themselves.

Citizens must come to the council meeting October 4th and do the asking.

Steven Meier/Boulder

Source: Letters: 9/29/16 – Boulder Weekly