What can I do to fight the co-op ordinance?
First: If you haven’t already done so, click on the button below to view and sign BNA’s petition to say “NO” to Boulder’s proposed co-op ordinance.
Second: Tell your friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens of Boulder about this, by clicking one of the “Share This” buttons below, to send it by email or to share it on Facebook. Or print out some copies of our co-op informational flyer and distribute it to your neighbors.
Third: send email to City Council at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell them what you think about this proposed ordinance. Refer to BNA’s Positions on the Co-op Ordinance for ideas of what to write, or use a few of the following Talking Points to compose your email:
- Before allowing this co-op ordinance to move forward, the City must budget for and hire sufficient occupancy enforcement staff. Residents of neighborhoods that could be impacted by the co-op ordinance already feel that the city has neglected its obligation to enforce regulations already on the books. Occupancy limit enforcement is especially lacking in staffing and direction. Adding legal co-ops on top of the already widespread over-occupancy in student rentals is unacceptable.
- Keep co-ops in compatible high-density, mixed-use, or converted commercial/office/industrial zones. Co-ops are just not compatible with low-density residential neighborhoods. It is not just a matter of noise, trash, weeds, and cars. Aesthetics, continuity, and population density all contribute to the character of a neighborhood. High-occupancy co-ops belong in higher-density neighborhoods, not low density single family areas.
- Co-ops based on any form of rental model are not acceptable. There is no verifiable or meaningful way to distinguish a “rental co-op” from any other high-occupancy rental or boarding house. Experience with existing illegal rental co-ops around Boulder has shown that the typical resident stays for less than one year, and that frequent short-term “residents” are par for the course. Investor landlords will easily subvert and abuse this process.
- Co-ops as defined by the currently proposed ordinance provide very little benefit to the community in terms of affordable housing or workforce housing. The number of people in need of affordable housing who would benefit from the suggested co-op concept is miniscule. The city should instead look to other solutions such as a real co-housing model based on equity ownership.
- There is a place for “Equity Co-ops” which would be defined by a purely ownership model. With a true equity co-op, the members of the co-op would have a long-term stake in the property and the surrounding neighborhood. But it would have to be a true ownership co-op, where all of the adult residents own a share of the property, and there are no outside owners. Allowing for any form of partial rental residency or non-resident ownership opens a huge loophole for abuse of the co-op ordinance.
- Co-op licensing should be controlled by the city, not by a third-party or quasi-governmental agency. Letting an outside group that has a vested interest in creating more co-ops is basically hiring a fox to manage the henhouse. Multiple layers of certification and management agencies would only serve to obfuscate the process. Licensing for an equity co-op must be tied to the property ownership, since it is the ownership arrangements that define the co-op.
- The number of co-ops licensed should be strictly limited on a per-year basis and capped at some reasonable total number. Five new co-ops per year (of any/all types) is a reasonable limit – there is no need to rush into the creation of 15 or 20 co-ops every year. And a total city-wide upper limit should be set at no more than twenty. This is more than reasonable for a city the size of Boulder, when compared to other much larger cities such as Madison, WI or Austin, TX.
- Include provisions requiring traffic and parking mitigation and limits to remain consistent with the particular location where the co-op is located.
- Neighbors must have a say when being subjected to up-zoning in the form of high-occupancy co-ops. If co-ops were to be allowed in established residential neighborhoods, then the current residents of those neighborhoods should receive sufficient notice and a significant voice in whether a proposed co-op is appropriate for that neighborhood. Neighborhood input on proposed land-use exceptions for co-ops is not “profiling” or “discrimination,” it’s the normal process of the city to vet any change in land-use in a residential area.
- Limit the number of occupants to a reasonable density per square foot with a minimum number of bedrooms and bathrooms per resident. If co-ops were to be allowed in existing residential neighborhoods, then occupancy must be limited to a total number that is not outrageously inconsistent with the neighborhood zoning, for example, no more than 6 adults per house in any residential zone.
Another approach for your email or talk would be to Ask Questions, like:
- 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 so many 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, 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?
Fourth: write a Letter to the Editor or Guest Opinion to the Boulder Daily Camera. We have some instructions on how to write and submit a letter, on our Take Action page. You can use the same points as you included in your email to City Council (above), or take inspiration from Jan Trussell’s Guest Opinion (which the Daily Camera refused to publish).
Finally, mark your calendar for the evening of October 4th, and prepare to speak directly to the council about this issue.