Presented to City Council at their September 2nd, 2014 meeting and published in the Daily Camera on September 5th.
Some citizens are claiming that the Comprehensive Housing Strategy has not included enough outreach, and are demanding we start over. We haven’t gotten to the meat of the process yet; most of the policy changes so far considered (like allowing 6 unrelated seniors to live together) are quite modest. What process we’ve had has been transparent and accessible, and anybody who has been paying attention has had opportunity to participate.
Ironically, the criticism seems to be coming from PLAN Boulder and neighborhood associations, who actually have been engaged and paying attention. These organizations predominantly represent older single family homeowners, who have a seat at the table for every city discussion. However, more than half of Boulder’s population — especially younger and lower income citizens — rent their housing, and some of us have been organizing around these issues for months.
I have to wonder if homeowners are undermining the process precisely because it includes these other voices. Starting over now would be incredibly discouraging for the young people and renters who have been working on housing issues since last fall’s elections, and might turn them off from city politics for years. Maybe that’s part of the goal.
Our neighborhood associations are structured in ways that discourage renters and younger people from getting involved. Even when we have managed to get them involved, their relevant input has often been censored. The neighborhoods like to claim they speak for everyone, but they represent a pretty narrow slice of Boulder. Homeowners are an important constituency, but there are other voices that need to be considered in our housing discussion. I applaud city staff for recognizing this fact.
I hope Council will adopt the proposed Comprehensive Housing Strategy process, including the citizen working groups.