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Compared to other college towns, CU students and Boulder residents seem to coexist relatively peacefully. But Boulder rental prices are among the highest in the state and continue to increase every year, making it increasingly difficult for students to live a sustainable lifestyle close to campus.
The Boulder city council held a study session Tuesday afternoon on the regulations that limit cooperative housing. There are only three official cooperative houses in Boulder, but several more exist illegally. The city’s occupancy limits dictate that no more than three unrelated individuals are allowed to live together.
In November, the city council unanimously approved an ordinance that allowed for harsher enforcement of occupancy limits, specifically targeting students. The ordinance includes a hike in fines for student neighborhoods like the Hill and Goss Grove. It also allows code enforcement officers to use advertising for houses as evidence that a residence was above occupancy, without requiring proof of how many people were actually living there. As of now, enforcement of the ordinance is on hold while the council listens to advocates for a new ordinance dealing with occupancy limits and cooperative housing.
The Boulder Community Housing Association (BoCHA) sent the council a white paper and an outline of a proposed ordinance that would allow for cooperative housing with minimal impact on neighbors in residential areas. One recommended change put forth by BoCHA is the requirement of a permit held by a nonprofit organization tied to the organization, rather than a property. This would allow leverage on behalf of the cooperative when dealing with property owners. The proposal also mentions issues like parking, trash and noise violations, and how cooperatives would be expected to handle them.
Included in the memo for the study session was a breakdown of laws in other university communities such as Austin, Texas and Berkeley, California, both of which have several student housing cooperatives. In addition to no occupancy limits, Berkeley has a rent stabilization law.
According to Apartment List, last September the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Boulder reached $2,000, making it the most expensive place to rent among 25 other cities in Colorado. The annual U.S. average rate of rent growth is about 3 percent. Rent in Colorado is growing at twice that rate. Some tenants of popular Boulder rental agencies, such as Boulder Property Management Co., saw rent increases of more than 20 percent from last year’s lease.
“For graduate students, the increasing rental rates and decreasing occupancy limits are not fair due to how our funding works,” engineering graduate student Kaitlyn Garifi said. “Some graduate students are not allowed to have secondary jobs by their funding contracts, and thus cannot work more to help pay the increase in rent.” Garifi, who lives in a property managed by BPM Co., saw her rent go up by 25 percent for next year.
The city’s ordinances and occupancy limits are extremely outdated and hurt not only students, but also working-class people who struggle to find affordable housing in Boulder. Although Tuesday’s session focused mainly on how city planners would deal with and implement new ordinances, the revision of occupancy laws helps unrelated people living together as well.
Climbing rental prices in Boulder disenfranchise students and the working-class. Updated city ordinances for cooperative housing and an increased occupancy limit that would create more affordable housing situations for students are essential to retaining what little diversity Boulder maintains.