By Sam Weaver and Bob Yates

Raise your hand if you have lived in Boulder all your life. Yep, not many of us.

Whether you arrived decades ago or recently, we Boulder immigrants each were welcomed here at some point. Many of us bought homes in Boulder so that we could be close to our jobs and so that our kids could attend Boulder’s excellent schools. This may have required stretching our budgets back then. But today, purchasing a home in Boulder is farther out of reach for local workers than ever before. While Boulder has grown as a regional job center, today’s workers have more barriers to Boulder home ownership than did those in the past. Average detached home prices near $1 million and average condo prices around $500,000 do not enable the inclusive environment to which Boulder aspires.

In a survey conducted for the city recently, more than half of in-commuters say they would live in Boulder if they could afford to. These middle-income folks, with family incomes between about $70,000 and $130,000, are the teachers who educate our kids, the nurses who care for us, and the firefighters who keep us safe. While Boulder has done a good job creating housing opportunities for low-income families, there are few tools to assist middle-income households. With housing prices in Boulder rising faster than incomes, it is often impossible for these middle-income families to save enough for the down-payment to buy a home. As a result, Boulder’s middle-income families are rapidly disappearing. Over the last 15 years, one-seventh of Boulder’s middle-income population simply evaporated. We are becoming a town only for the very rich and those who qualify for housing assistance.

Ballot Issue 2I will give the city authority to borrow up to $10 million to pilot a down-payment assistance program for families who work in Boulder but cannot afford to live here. Under this pilot program, the city will borrow money from a bank and re-loan the funds to qualifying homebuyers, helping them bridge the gap between what they have saved and the amount they can borrow using a conventional mortgage. The city’s loan will be protected by a second mortgage on the property, with repayment deferred until the home is sold or after a set time. When a program participant repays the loan to the city, with interest, the city will use these funds to repay the bank. Thus, the cost to the city will be nominal, and the city is not seeking to increase taxes to fund the program. That bears repeating: Taxes will not increase under Ballot Issue 2I.

To qualify for the program, the homebuyer must have worked in Boulder for at least two years, meet income and wealth tests, make a minimum down payment of 5%, and be purchasing a home that is at or below the Boulder median price for homes of that type. To ensure that the home is affordable to middle-income families in perpetuity, the program participant will agree to deed-restrict the home to be permanently affordable by means of an appreciation cap. The ballot measure provides flexibility to adjust terms to meet program goals in the face of changing market conditions. More information can be found at:

Now, there are some naysayers who claim that this pilot program won’t work, for various reasons. Some of them have a vested financial interest in seeing Boulder house prices continue to escalate.

Others search for “what if” scenarios that could result in harm to the city or the homebuyer. But no one said that owning real estate is risk-free. As Winston Churchill once observed, a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. We are optimists.

The pilot program enabled by Ballot Issue 2I could help 100 middle-income families buy homes in Boulder, moving us toward our goal of ensuring that 15% of Boulder’s housing stock is permanently affordable to low- and middle-income families by 2035. If the program works, we can expand it. If there are no takers, the program will cost very little money or staff time. Perhaps most importantly the program will give more people the chance to live near where they work, reducing in-commuting and greenhouse gas emissions, and improving the quality of life for both commuters and those of us who are already fortunate enough to live here.

Please vote yes on Ballot Issue 2I so that Boulder can continue to be welcoming and inclusive.

Sam Weaver and Bob Yates are members of the Boulder City Council.

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