Published: Oct. 22, 2019

Three photos showing a house engulfed by buildings, tall buildings in a city and the backs of a crowd of people walking in a city.

Can you afford to purchase a home in Boulder?  Most people can't.  And many small businesses have been forced out by high rents. So have working families, students, university staff, immigrants and others.

Gentrification. It's been happening across the country and especially in Colorado. Affluent people and businesses move in, rents and property prices rise, and pretty soon the lower and middle classes can no longer afford to live there.

"Everyone deserves access to a safe and stable home they can afford where they choose to put down roots," says Mackenzie Sehlke, public affairs specialist with Boulder County Housing and Human Services. “Without this, we suffer in so many other ways – our health deteriorates, our families struggle to thrive, our community becomes monotone, we increase our contributions to climate change and our businesses can’t keep good employees."

If you go

Who: Planners, designers, researchers, students, residents, city and town officials, agency staff and anyone interested!

What: Squeezed Out: Challenges of Diversity and Affordability in Colorado Communities

When: Oct. 25, 7:45 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Where: SEEC Building, 4001 Discovery Dr., Boulder

Cost: $40 conference fee, includes lunch and other refreshments. Scholarships available for students.

Registration and more information

ETC: An opening reception will be held Oct. 24, 5:30-7 pm, at the Environmental Design building, University of Colorado Boulder, ENVD 134, 1060 18th St., Boulder. $15 includes appetizers and drinks.

On Friday Oct. 25, "Squeezed Out," the third annual Community Building Colorado-Style conference, will explore creative solutions to these challenges of affordability, diversity and equity occurring in rapidly-growing Colorado communities. The event, which is organized by CU Boulder's Community Engagement, Design and Research (CEDaR) Center and sponsored by The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), Downtown Colorado Inc. and the American Planning Association (APA), is open to the community. Registration is required. 

CEDaR is a collaborative of faculty and students that works with cities and other local partners to build vital, equitable and sustainable communities. Much of CEDaR’s work occurs in neighborhoods and with populations that are in transition because of high urban costs. 

The conference's 30 speakers include planning and design thinkers, neighborhood organizations and activists. During hands-on workshops, participants will explore concepts and designs for the manufactured housing community of the future, creative districts and affordable housing in the Boulder region.

Also included is a panel of community advocates, organizers and leaders who will offer their insights on the critical role affordable housing plays in building a strong, resilient Boulder County,  says Sehlke. These experts have made professional contributions to mental health services, medical care, local government, community radio and translation services.

"We can still build this thriving, diverse community by tripling our supply of affordable homes across our region by 2035 with creative solutions that match the needs and resources of each community," she adds. "Most of all, we need everyone to join the conversation around finding and pursuing solutions.”

Living beyond their means

While many working people move outside of Boulder, many who have stayed are living beyond their means. Since 2010, the number of Boulder County households paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs has steadily increased, according to the Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership. Homes are considered affordable when rent and utilities in an apartment or monthly mortgage payment and housing expenses for a homeowner total less than 30 percent of a household’s gross monthly income.

"Many Coloradans - renters, immigrants, artists, students, seniors, mobile and manufactured homeowners, single-parent and working families, small business owners and middle-class families - are financially stressed as a result of housing and other urban costs," says Brian Muller, CEDaR director and associate professor in the Program in Environmental Design.  "Coloradans are also worried about quality of life - congestion, pollution, neighborhood character and shrinking green landscapes."

Dan Carmody, president of the Eastern Market Corporation, will speak about the development of the market and its role in stimulating small local businesses and providing permanently affordable housing both in Detroit's farmer’s market district and nearby areas. Eastern Market is the largest historic public market district in the United States, with more than 150 foods and specialty businesses and attracting about 45,000 shoppers on Saturdays, according to Wikipedia. The market has become a catalyst for development in the surrounding neighborhood, and local and internationally recognized art galleries, studios and makerspaces as well as independent eateries, shops and performance spaces have sprung up in the area.

Dan Carmody

Dan Carmody

Irene Aguilar, a former state senator for southwest Denver who now directs the City of Denver Neighborhood Equity and Stabilization Team, helps people and businesses who want to stay in Denver from being displaced.  Aguilar will be on a panel entitled, "Development, Affordability and Dislocation in Colorado Cities,” which will include reflections on new state initiatives created to combat displacement of businesses and people.  

"If you live in a city where changes are happening that have led to displacement in other cities, don't wait,"  Aguilar says. "It’s time to act."