On April 21st, Planning Board will be holding the first public hearing on a new law that could enable responsible shared housing arrangements in the form of cooperatives. Co-op advocates have some concerns with the proposed language, and are asking supporters to contact Planning Board and City Council, and highlight the following points:
- Council should enable co-ops which are owned by residents (private equity), non-profits (group equity) and private landlords (rental).
- Co-ops that own their property need to have the right to continue living in their homes indefinitely, even if the enabling legislation is repealed.
Except in cases of ongoing uncured negligent behavior, it should not be possible to take someone’s home away from them. Making private & group equity cooperatives impermanent will also make it difficult, if not impossible, to finance permanently affordable housing co-ops.
- In private equity co-ops, allow a mix of renters and owners, so long as the majority of residents are owners, and absentee ownership is limited.
We need some flexibility in who can own shares of a private equity co-op. Allowing a minority of residents to be renters, and a minority of owners to live outside the co-op will enable smoother community transitions, and increase income diversity within the home, while ensuring that it behaves like an owner occupied dwelling.
- Enable at least 10 people per cooperative household, via an occupancy limit that allows one resident for every 150 square feet of habitable space.
High occupancy is what makes co-ops affordable and sustainable. It is also what makes household governance and community function well. Allowing one resident per 150sf of habitable space would enable the existing co-ops we know of in Boulder.
- Ensure that rental co-ops have access to a large proportion of the rental market. Eliminate the proposed rent caps for co-ops.
Rent caps that only allow rental co-ops in properties where landlords are willing to charge well below market rents will inhibit co-op formation. Excluding co-ops from single-family residential zones would dramatically reduce the available properties.
- Give rental co-ops bargaining power in the housing market, by requiring rental co-op licenses to be held jointly by a property owner and the co-op group.
Putting rental co-op licenses solely in the hands of property owners will give landlords pricing power, driving up co-op rents, and reducing co-op autonomy.
- Create an ordinance that provides fair and predictable mechanisms for limiting neighborhood impacts including parking, noise, trash, and weeds.
Allowing unsubstantiated complaints to initiate a co-op license revocation process which gives a great deal of discretion to the City Manager introduces an unacceptable level of risk into co-op ownership, and may have impacts on financing availability.