Voices from Affordable Housing (Oral History Project)

Affordable Housing in Boulder County

Boulder County, at approximately 313,333 population according to the 2014 Census estimate, continues to grow, while housing availability for middle and low-income residents is increasingly sparse. There has been an outmigration of households earning less than $50,000 and an influx of households earning more than $150,000, and the median home price has risen from $133,210 in 1980 to $501,800 in 2011 (1980 Census, 2011 ACS). Most affordable housing is attached housing (apartments or condos), and the Boulder Housing Market Analysis conducted for the City of Boulder in 2013 noted that families seeking detached single family homes have more options outside Boulder city such as Longmont. While home-ownership is out of the question for over 40% of Boulder’s residents, access to affordable rentals is also severely limited. The average rent in Boulder is $1,080, requiring an estimated income of $47, 216. There are a number of organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, working to expand affordable housing infrastructure and improve access to affordable housing, including Thistle Communities, Boulder Housing Helpers, Bridge House, Boulder Housing Partners and the city of Boulder office of Housing and Human Services. However, given the trend of rising median household incomes, rising housing prices and increased outmigration of middle and low-income families, these organizations are finding it difficult to increase low-income residents’ access to affordable housing opportunities.

Access to affordable housing in Boulder has changed drastically over the past several decades. Low-income residents have become increasingly vulnerable to rising housing costs and decreased overall availability. Graduate students conducting research in the Spring 2015 qualitative research seminar generated extensive community interest, and received numerous requests to continue collecting data from a wide variety of sources in order to broaden general understanding about for affordable housing options, opportunities, and activism. Additionally, students observed that participants in the “Housing Boulder Working Group” meetings voiced concern over a general lack of information about low-income resident experiences and views. In order to serve those who are most vulnerable to Boulder County’s shifting housing market, more research is needed to identify specific housing issues in the context of broader social, political and economic processes. By including qualitative geography research methods, this project engages low-income and minority residents’ perspectives along with historical and quantitative data. The resulting comprehensive analysis will positively contribute to existing efforts aimed at improving access to affordable housing.