Photograph showing eight 2-story townhomes with shallow building setbacks from the street. Photograph showing houses lining a very narrow paved lane shared by pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobiles. Photograph of a one-story duplex unit. Photograph showing a 2-story single-family detached home with a front porch, with other residences in the background, on the narrow lane. Photograph showing two adults and a small child walking in the woonerf. Photograph showing six 3-story townhomes.

 

Home >Case Studies >Boulder, Colorado: Infill Workforce Housing

 

Boulder, Colorado: Infill Workforce Housing

 

Boulder, Colorado, located northwest of Denver in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, is a lively university town with a population of more than 100,000. Home to the state’s flagship research university, a strong technology sector, and world-class outdoor recreation opportunities, Boulder is an extremely desirable place to live and work. These factors also make the city’s housing among the most expensive in the state. According to data from Zillow, at the end of 2014 the median home value in Boulder exceeded $530,000 — a price unaffordable to households earning low-, moderate-, or moderately high incomes and more than double the $254,000 statewide median value for a home. Data from the city show that, in 2014, just 41 percent of Boulder’s workforce lived in the city.

The 2010 Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan, a collaboration between the city and county governments, identified the lack of housing options for low- and moderate-income households and families as a key policy focus for both the city and county. Providing housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income households, yet meets the city’s high design ethos, requires creative solutions that maximize the development potential of the city’s scarce available land. Such solutions are crucial elements of Yarmouth Way — a 25-unit homeownership development featuring 10 deed-restricted, affordably priced homes and 15 modestly priced market-rate units — that was developed with minimal public subsidy.

Program and Design

In 2011, nonprofit housing developer Thistle Communities and for-profit Allison Management partnered to acquire a vacant parcel on the southern end of Boulder’s Holiday neighborhood. Although the site had been approved for a community services building, Thistle and Alison stepped in to broaden the homeownership opportunities available to Boulder-area families when the original proposal for the site did not move forward. Boulder has increased its percentage of permanently affordable housing from 3.6 percent in 2000 to 7.2 percent in 2014, making significant progress toward meeting its 10 percent goal. Diversifying and expanding the city’s housing opportunities for families, however, has remained a challenge. Approximately three-quarters of the city’s permanently affordable homes are one- or two-bedroom units, and less than 10 percent of these affordable properties are single-family detached units.

To address these gaps in the housing supply, Yarmouth Way features different housing types of varying size (table 1), including attached townhomes, duplexes, and single-family detached homes. The homes include two-, three-, and four-bedroom units and range from approximately 1,000 square feet for a two-bedroom duplex unit to approximately 2,400 square feet for a four-bedroom, single-family detached house. Several of the homes are organized around a woonerf, an arbored alley that prioritizes pedestrian and bicycle traffic over automobiles. The development’s scale and design — with features such as shallow building setbacks and street-facing porches that promote walkability and a greater sense of community — are consistent with those of the adjacent neighborhood.


Table 1. Yarmouth Way Unit Mix


 

Townhouse
Units

Duplex
Units

Single-Family Detached Houses

Workforce

7

1

2

Market-Rate

4

5

6

Yarmouth Way also meets the energy-efficiency standards established by Boulder’s Green Points Program, which exceed those of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code. Boulder standards also require a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index score of less than 60, indicating that the house is at least 40 percent more efficient than a standard new house. The new homes include tightly insulated building envelopes and energy-efficient windows, lighting, and appliances. A townhouse in Yarmouth Way has a HERS Index score of 58 and modeled energy costs of $64 per month.

A Financially Viable Housing Mix

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Yarmouth Way is that its financial structure minimizes public subsidy through the sale of market-rate houses. The ratio of market-rate to affordable units allowed the sales of market-rate homes to offset the losses associated with the deed-restricted units. The market-rate units had sales prices ranging from $275,000 to $450,000; and the deed-restricted units, affordable to households who meet the income limits established by the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance, sold for $208,000 to $237,300.

The project’s 10 deed-restricted units constitute 40 percent of the development, double the number of affordable units required under Boulder’s ordinance. The Yarmouth Way developers were able to provide the additional affordable units through a creative use of the ordinance. If developers do not include the affordable units in their market-rate projects, they typically meet their affordable housing obligations through in-lieu payments to the city or by constructing affordable units offsite. For Yarmouth Way, the development team coordinated directly with another developer to meet their 5-unit obligation at Yarmouth Way, with the Yarmouth Way developers receiving a $100,000 in-lieu payment for each additional affordable unit provided. This agreement helped with the project financials and contributed to the city’s stock of larger and better quality affordable housing than would otherwise have been achieved.

In addition to the transfer of in-lieu fees, the project benefitted from financial assistance in the form of an interest-free loan for predevelopment costs provided by NeighborWorks America. The average development cost per unit was approximately $253,000 and the project’s total cost was just over $6.3 million. Community Housing Capital, a community development financial institution, provided the bulk of the project’s permanent financing.

Sustainable Mixed-Income Housing

Yarmouth Way offers affordable homeownership opportunities to low- and moderate-income households in Boulder, where housing costs are among the highest in the state. In going beyond the requirements of the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance, the project expands housing choices to Boulder families at multiple income levels. The project’s ability to provide these affordable homeownership opportunities with minimal public subsidy demonstrates that market-based affordable housing solutions can be achieved through careful planning, design, local policy, and the creation of a high-quality product. Because of these features and results, the project was a winner of the Urban Land Institute’s 2013 Jack Kemp Workforce Housing Models of Excellence Awards.

Source:

City of Boulder. 2014. “Community Profile.” Accessed 5 January 2015; University of Colorado Boulder. 2014. “Just the Facts.” Accessed 5 January 2015; Zillow. 2014. “Home Values: Colorado Home Prices & Values.” Accessed 5 January 2015.

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Source:

City of Boulder and Boulder County. 2010. “The Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan.” Accessed 5 January 2015; Documents provided by Thistle Communities.

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Source:

Documents provided by Thistle Communities; City of Boulder. 2014. “Affordable Housing Development Trends.” Accessed 5 January 2015.

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Source:

Documents provided by Thistle Communities.

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Source:

Documents provided by Thistle Communities; City of Boulder. 2013. “Municipal Code, Chapter 10-7.5: Green Building and Green Points Program.” Accessed 5 January 2015.

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Source:

Documents provided by Thistle Communities; City of Boulder. 2013. “Municipal Code, Section 9-13-6: Program Requirements for For-Sale Units.” Accessed 5 January 2015.

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Source:

Documents provided by Thistle Communities; Interview with Michelle Allen, Boulder Inclusionary Housing program manager, 20 January 2015.

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Source:

Documents provided by Thistle Communities.

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