Boulder is missing the “missing middle” once again

The Celestial Seasonings proposal misses the mark! As time passes in Boulder, middle income citizens are endangered and becoming extinct, sadly, taking with them Boulder's character, community diversity, resilience and sustainability.

It’s no secret, middle income households have been shrinking year over year and the city is far from reaching its middle income housing goal of 7% of all stock. This goal was set in 2016 to aggressively add 3,500 middle income housing by 2030.

In contrast, “since adoption of Boulder’s 1999 Housing Strategy, there has been significant progress toward achieving the city’s adopted housing goals, including, notably, the goal to have 10 percent of the city housing stock be deed restricted as permanently affordable for low and moderate income households.

Thus, since Boulder is on track with adding affordable housing stock, the Celestial Seasonings development doesn’t even attempt to address the immediate pressing housing dilemma. This proposal instead strengthens the dilemma by adding more market rate 4&5 star high density rentals that no one wants.

As evidence, middle income households can afford 99% of all rentals in the city of Boulder as of now. Yet a large number of rentals sit empty. For example, let's look at the numbers:

  • By the end of April 2021, there were 1,206 vacant rentals in Boulder.

  • Of those, 693 were vacant 4&5 star high density rentals.

  • The vacancy rates for 4&5 star high density rentals is over 10% as of April 2021.

  • These numbers don’t include the 689 4&5 star units under construction in Boulder and set to deliver in 2021.

  • And hundreds of 4&5 star high density units are in the works for 2022.

The question is, if middle income households can afford to rent 4&5 star units like the proposed Celestial Seasonings development, why are so many of these apartments sitting empty? And why are middle income households shrinking in the city of Boulder when there are plenty of rentals? It’s easy to see this is not a problem with supply. We are obviously building the wrong type of housing. These types of rentals are not matching the needs and preferences of middle income individuals, families and seniors.

Already, we know from the 2014 Housing Choice Survey that over half of in-commuters would consider moving to boulder if they could live in townhomes or duplex/triples/fourplex.

Middle income housing has been a concern since the 1999 Comprehensive Housing Strategy and there seems to be no clear path for reaching our goals. Conversely, with every new high density development, Boulder’s middle income core is pushed further out of the city.

The missing middle has been clear on what’s not working. They have shown us that more density and congestion is not what they’re seeking -- by the fact that they are choosing jammed commutes so they can enjoy more personal living space and less density. The missing middle have voted by disappearing. Without a speedy intervention, the migration is on track to continue every year until they are nearly extinct in Boulder.

Boulder needs a different approach.

The missing middle has rejected the Celestial Seasonings proposed development as it stands. Before building more high density rentals (and co-opting acreage needed for community amenities supported by the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan), Gunbarrel needs a sub-community plan. A decision on the Celestial Seasonings proposal should wait until after we have a plan. Middle income residents are worth the thought and careful planning to meet their needs. Let's reconsider using more natural undisturbed land for high density apartments that middle income individuals don't want.

~Thank you!

Gunbarrel Community Alliance Board of Directors:

Kit Fuller

Wanda Fuller

Julie Dye

April Lyons

Ardith Rietema

Rod Rietema

Mike Chiropolos, Counsel

Missing Middle

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