New commercial development in Boulder helps finance Affordable Housing (AH) through a charge called a linkage fee for each square foot of development. At a recent meeting, Councilman Weaver attempted to convince fellow council members to adopt a linkage fee of $15 a square foot to support our AH goals. Instead, Council voted to charge a linkage fee of just $12 a square foot. …
What was not understandable, however, was that Boulder’s nonprofits attended the public hearing and supported the Chamber’s lower number of $12… Why would BHP and the Human Services Alliance, a consortium of Boulder’s human service nonprofits, argue against additional monies that would help fulfill their mission? It is reminiscent of the people with serious medical conditions who want to do away with Obamacare. Or blue collar workers who voted for a billionaire president who stacks his cabinet with fellow billionaires.
On Feb. 7, six of nine folks on City Council voted to increase development impact fees from $9 to $12 a square foot. As Councilman Sam Weaver reminded the others, some 900 housing units were proposed for 18,000 jobs in 2025. The city’s own taxpayer-paid-for consultant study resulted in a recommendation of $130-$158 a square foot for affordable-housing impacts fees alone, which doesn’t cover police, fire, libraries, parks and recreation.
What don’t they get about this? I am ashamed at my community. This is a university town, yet simple math eludes them…
As commercial development explodes in Boulder, the most vulnerable among us continue to be shortchanged. Though new commercial development brings jobs, it increases the demand for already scarce housing, skyrocketing housing prices and rents. Consequently, longtime lower- and middle-income residents are being forced out of Boulder at an unprecedented rate. Attempting to address the affordable housing issue, City Council passed a $12-per-square-foot affordable housing (AH) linkage fee on commercial development, $3 less than city staff recommended. … Alas, it is business as usual on the council — emphasis on “business.” The special interests call the shots and the taxpayer foots the bill. Some things never change. Keep this in mind when November’s election rolls around.
The City Council has reaffirmed a November decision to raise, by about 25 percent, the per-square-foot fee on commercial developers that helps pay for the creation and preservation of affordable housing in Boulder.
Before Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman Sam Weaver made a push for a reconsideration of the $15 fee, which he said Trump’s election demanded, because of the expected loss or cutting down of some affordable housing funding sources.
“We have clearly seen the direction this administration is going, and it’s not going to be beneficial for affordable housing,” Weaver said.
Morzel, Young and Weaver were the only council members who did not vote in favor of adopting the $12 fee on Tuesday.
As I watched the City Council debate and then decide on the developer linkage fees on Nov. 15, I despaired at the outcome. It had already been decided days, perhaps weeks, before. Yes, the $12 per square foot figure, below the staff recommendation of $15 per square foot, was going to be the outcome despite hours of staff and consultant work, countless dollars spent, and significant citizen input. All for naught as the Chamber of Commerce/Boulder Housing Partners/Downtown Boulder Inc. etc. determined their own, unquestioned figure and presented it to the council unsubstantiated and unchallenged. And it was approved.
“We have a real urgency for affordable housing, and we can’t just keep putting it off,” Councilwoman Lisa Morzel said. “Development should not be expected to create all of the funds that will generate affordable housing revenue, but they need to pay for some of it, and right now, $9 … is woefully inadequate. $12 is woefully inadequate and $15, I think, is woefully inadequate.”
Morzel sought a $30 fee, but could not get enough support. Mayor Pro Tem Mary Young also couldn’t get enough votes for her motion — a $35 fee.
Ultimately, six of the nine council members supported the $12 fee, which is $3 short of what city staff had recommended all along.
Some had argued that setting the fee above $12 would disadvantage small businesses and hurt the local economy.
“We strongly object to a linkage fee that would be more than” $12, said John Tayer, CEO of the Boulder Chamber, “and that’s because we know that … there are direct pass-throughs from the developers down to the small store owners.”