Council may be stealing economic opportunity

If you are like a lot of people, your eyes may start to glaze over at the mere mention of “Opportunity Zones,” but stick with me as there is a fascinating story of apparent desperation, questionable motives, and possibly deceitful tactics in order to stem any growth in Boulder.

What are Opportunity Zones anyway?

Opportunity Zones were created by the 2017 federal tax reform package, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as a way to incentivize investors to improve and revitalize communities across the country that have languished while the rest of the US enjoyed a terrific boom.  Specifically, an Opportunity Zone is a census tract that Congress designated as eligible (read struggling) to receive private capital investments through “Opportunity Funds,” which allow investors to receive a deferral, reduction, or possibly even elimination of federal capital gains taxes, depending on how long they keep their money invested in a qualifying property and how much they improve it.

So what?

This is where the story gets interesting.  Gov. Hickenlooper, seemingly with support from Boulder at the time, designated a Boulder census tract that runs from 28th to 55th Streets and from Iris to Arapahoe Avenue as an Opportunity Zone.  While virtually every other municipality welcomed these designations as an opportunity to revitalize their struggling communities, the Boulder City Council placed a moratorium on its Opportunity Zone, blocking investment.  And did I mention that this is a limited time offer?

If you are new to the area or have not been following local politics closely (and who could blame you?), it might seem surprising that Boulder would block such investments.  However, as discussed in a previous column, a majority of the Boulder City Council appears to be beholden to Boulder’s CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) who do not want growth of any kind.  It seems they want things to be like it was “back then,” an apparently bygone era with fewer people, fewer businesses, etc.  When viewed through this lens, their actions, though by definition counter productive, make sense.

And now for the master stroke of the CAVE people: make it look to the public like they are lifting the moratorium, when they are actually downzoning large parts of the city.  Under the guise of lifting the Opportunity Zone moratorium and updating “use table standards,” the city will effectively downzone thousands of properties (not just in the Opportunity Zone), limiting office uses to 25 percent of floor area in the BR, BMS, and TB business zones, and limiting small office uses in residential zones.  This will make any existing building in an affected business zone with more than 25 percent office space a “non-conforming use,” meaning that changes or expansions to this use would require city approval through a non-conforming use review.  And what do you think the chances of getting approved would be?

This proposal by the city council runs counter to its stated positions on the environment, not to mention its own Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan policies supporting creation of 15-minute walkable neighborhoods and other policies favoring mixed-use planning, smart growth, and pedestrian uses.

If you are so inclined, you can share your opinion with the city council at council@bouldercolorado.gov, or if you are really motivated, you can attend the council’s public hearing at 6 p.m. on Sept. 3 at 1777 Broadway.

Originally posted by Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.

Posted on September 4, 2019 at 3:00 pm
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City housing proposal may be Faustian bargain

There is a serious shortage of homes in Boulder, as is evidenced by the roughly 65,000 people who commute in and out of Boulder on a daily basis.  About half of these people would live in Boulder if they could, but are forced to “drive until they qualify” for a home, which increases their carbon footprint, commute times, and overall stress level.  It is clear that creative solutions are needed to address this crucial issue.

The Boulder City Council’s proposed pilot program to “help” middle income families purchase market rate homes is, while creative, a Faustian bargain, in my opinion.  In the current iteration supported by members of the city council, the city would use a “loan-loss reserve fund” to guaranty second mortgages that would allow people to purchase more home than they would qualify for by themselves.  (An earlier version from a 2016 white paper would have had the city use its bonding power to raise money to buy a percentage of a purchaser’s home, which the city would get back at closing, plus some amount of appreciation).

 

If the program stopped there, I would applaud the city’s effort for trying to get more families into homes that would be owner occupied.  But here is where the Faustian bargain sets in.  In exchange for the city’s assistance, the buyer would have to “voluntarily” agree to deed restrict the home they just purchased to be permanently affordable.

Let us consider the consequences of this for the individual or family who purchases a home under this program:

  1. All of the burdens. The buyers now have all of the burdens of homeownership.  For example, if the furnace breaks or the roof wears out, the burden falls on the homeowner to replace them.  If the home loses value, it is ostensibly the homeowner who bears the loss when they look to resell.  And remember, in this fantasy, a lender is going to agree to loan buyers more money than the lender thinks they can reasonably afford because the city is going to guaranty a portion of the loan, which means the buyers will likely have more financial strain and be at a higher risk of default.  Whether the city can sufficiently incentivize a bank to overlook that they would likely be overextending buyers financially remains to be seen.
  2. Limited rewards.  While the homeowner is saddled with the burdens and risks of ownership, they do not reap the full reward of their home’s appreciation — the city sees to this through its deed restriction.  Suppose homeowners do an outstanding job of upgrading and maintaining their home, and the market rises over the 10 years they own their home, the owners will not receive the fruits of their labor and good fortune of an appreciating market.  Instead, the city will cap their appreciation at some percentage likely well below the market. 

For the majority of Americans, their home is their biggest asset and primary source of wealth creation.  The effect of the city’s program, then, is to make families who avail themselves of this program poorer over time relative to those who purchased homes on the open market.

It is, in my opinion, this asymmetry of unlimited risk and handicapped reward underlying the program that makes it so insidious.

If this wasn’t bad enough, let us now consider the consequences of this for the housing market in Boulder in general.  The more unfortunate souls the city “helps” via this program, the fewer homes will be available on the open market.  If the supply of homes is further restricted via this program, and demand for housing remains strong (remember the 30,000 commuters who would like to live in Boulder?), then the result will be home prices rising even faster.  So, in an effort to create a number of “permanently affordable” homes, the city will make the rest of Boulder much more expensive. 

Originally posted on BizWest.  Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.

Posted on March 5, 2019 at 3:00 pm
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Top Places to Raise a Family in Boulder County

If you live in Boulder County, you know that all the ingredients needed to make a great place to raise a family are right here. So it’s no surprise that seven of Colorado’s top 25 places to raise a family in 2018 are in Boulder County, according to analysis by Niche.com.

Niche.com ranked the family friendliness of locations by assessing the quality of public schools, cost of living, crime rate, access to amenities, diversity, housing trends, employment statistics and percentage of households with children, among other characteristics. Data sources include U.S. Census Bureau data, the American Community Survey, FBI crime reports, and local surveys.

Most top 25 Colorado locations are in the Boulder area or the Denver metro area. Here are the Boulder County areas in the top 25 best places to raise a family in 2018:

#1 Pine Brook Hills

Pine Brook Hills is an unincorporated area just west of Boulder with a population of 1,091. According to Niche.com, many retirees live in Pine Brook Hills. 

Ranking on Key Attributes

Public Schools    A+

Housing               A

Good for Families  A+

 

#3 Louisville

The town of Louisville is in southeastern Boulder County. Amenities include 1,700 acres of open space, dozens of great eateries, a thriving arts scene, great schools, wonderful neighborhoods and a diverse mix of employment opportunities for its population of 19,972. 

Ranking on Key Attributes

Public Schools    A

Housing               B+

Good for Families  A+

 

#4 Superior

Located in southeastern Boulder County, the town of Superior has 594 acres of parks, greenspace, and open space and 27 miles of trails for its population of 12,928. Niche.com says many families and young professionals live in Superior.

Ranking on Key Attributes

Public Schools    A

Housing               B+

Good for Families  A+

 

#8  Gunbarrel

Gunbarrel is a mix of unincorporated county and city of Boulder lands, located just east of Boulder. Gunbarrel’s 9,559 residents enjoy craft breweries, coffee shops, trails and parks. Niche.com says many young professionals live in Gunbarrel.

Ranking on Key Attributes

Public Schools    A+

Housing               B

Good for Families  A+

 

#10 Boulder

Tucked into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the city of Boulder has a population of 105,420. Residents enjoy more than 45,000 acres of open space, 150 miles of trails, and 60 urban parks. The city is home to a thriving tech and natural foods industry and the University of Colorado Boulder. Niche.com says the public schools in Boulder are highly rated.

Ranking on Key Attributes

Public Schools    A+

Housing               C+

Good for Families  A+

 

#19 Niwot

Niwot is a small town in eastern Boulder County with a population of 4,588. Niwot offers craft breweries, coffee shops and a summer music program.

Ranking on Key Attributes

Public Schools    A

Housing               C+

Good for Families A

 

#24 Lafayette

The town of Lafayette is in eastern Boulder County with a population of 27,053 made up largely of families and young professionals. Lafayette has a parks system, greenbelts, bikeways, open space, and an attractive downtown featuring coffee shops and boutiques. 

Ranking on Key Attributes

Public Schools    A

Housing               B+

Good for Families A

 

For the full list of the top 25 most family-friendly communities in Colorado visit: https://www.niche.com/places-to-live/search/best-places-for-families/s/colorado/

To see average home prices in each Boulder County community, visit our website at boulderco.com and search “Communities.”

 

 

Originally posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Thursday, January 17th, 2019 at 11:13am.

Posted on January 18, 2019 at 9:09 pm
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Real Estate Conference Set to Explore Boulder Valley Challenges and Trends

The eleventh annual Boulder Valley Real Estate Conference offers a packed day Thursday, November 15, exploring trends, commercial impacts, and inventory shortages in Boulder County commercial and residential real estate.

Organized by BizWest with presenting sponsor RE/MAX of Boulder, the event delivers an intensive schedule of national keynote speakers and panels made up of local real estate experts and development officials.

More than 500 real estate professionals and anyone interested in the local real estate market are expected to attend. Attendees get insights into residential and commercial real estate activity and coming opportunities in Boulder and Broomfield counties.

The conference kicks off with local real estate expert Todd Gullette, RE/MAX of Boulder Managing Broker, discussing the latest sales and price statistics and implications for residential real estate across Boulder Valley. The commercial forecast follows, with Angela Topel, Gibbons-White Senior Broker, exploring major commercial developments, sales and vacancy statistics.

Future technology – now turned present – takes center stage when Jay Kalinski, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX of Boulder, moderates a panel of real estate banking and technology experts, exploring “The Impact of Blockchain” on residential real estate. Blockchain technologies enable a shared, nationwide database of houses on the market. The panel will look at how Blockchain platforms affect Boulder County’s housing market and how Realtors should respond.

“Big Tech Settles In” focuses on the local impact of the tech economy and examines the surging Boulder tech scene, including expansions by Google, Twitter, Microsoft and Uber.

Conference keynote address presents the outlook of Wells Fargo’s EVP of Housing Policy and Homeownership Growth Strategies, Brad Blackwell, and MetroStudy’s Senior Director West Region, John Covert.

Next up, “Breaking Ground” – back by popular demand – reveals commercial and residential developments in the Boulder Valley and beyond. A panel of city-employed development directors from Lafayette, Longmont, Louisville, Superior, Boulder, Erie and Broomfield provide a complete rundown of the region’s top projects.

“Wrestling with Supply” tackles the top challenge for Boulder-area residential real estate markets. Lack of housing inventory, issues with infill development, height limits, accessory-dwelling units and zoning conspire to cause a critical housing shortage. Moderated by Duane Duggan, RE/MAX of Boulder Realtor, the panel will discuss policy changes developers believe would address the problem.

“Icons of Real Estate” is back by popular demand. Featuring long-time successful real estate experts Tom Kalinski, Owner/Founder, RE/MAX of Boulder; Stephanie Iannone, Managing Broker, Housing Helpers; and Seth Chernoff, CEO, Chernoff Boulder Properties, audience members will ask questions to learn proven best practices and advice for success in commercial real estate.

The conference will be held from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm on Thursday, Nov. 15 at the Embassy Suites hotel, 2601 Canyon Blvd. in Boulder. Registration opens at 8:15 am. For details and to pre-register visit http://fallrealestateconference.com. Breakfast and lunch are included. The conference is open to anyone with an interest in Boulder Valley real estate. Conference attendees can earn six Van Education credits.

Conference details in this quick video: https://bit.ly/2PAsWQV

 

Originally posted here by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Tuesday, November 13th, 2018 at 3:40pm.

Posted on November 14, 2018 at 10:33 pm
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What Makes a Smart City Smart?

Boulder is known for its highly educated, technology-oriented citizenry. The city is even ranked No. 1 nationally in the “Bloomberg Brain Concentration Index,” which tracks business formation as well as employment and education in the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

But does that make Boulder a smart city? Not according to Colorado Smart Cities Alliance (CSCA). CSCA might summarize a smart city as an environment that works well for the people who live in it.

Specifically, CSCA defines a smart city “as an environment that enables all of us to effectively and efficiently live, work, and play. It leverages advancements in science and technology to create an area that is intelligent about strategic and tactical needs and wants of all the constituents.”

Boulder, Longmont, and Fort Collins are among a dozen cities along the Front Range that are founding members of the CSCA. Founded in 2017 by the Denver South Economic Development, CSCA is an open, collaborative, and active platform where stakeholders work to collaborate on continually improving the region’s economic foundations for future generations. The initiative aims to make Colorado a leader in the development of intelligent infrastructure. The goal is to accelerate the development of statewide Smart City initiatives that will improve our play, family, and work lives, from transportation and housing to public safety and the environment.

In ColoradoBiz Magazine, DesignThinkingDenver’s CEO Joe Hark Harold says, smart cities could design systems that save water and energy, reduce traffic and traffic congestion, lessen crime, better prepare for disasters, provide better connections between business and customers, and even manage the lights remotely.

There is urgency behind this movement, driven by an increase of those who live in urban environments. More than three million additional people are expected to move to Colorado by 2050 — an increase of more than 50 percent from 2015, according to the Colorado State Demography Office. Coupled with the growth the state has already experienced, the projected increase has spurred community leaders to collaborate on finding innovative, cost-effective ways to better monitor, manage, and improve infrastructure and public services.

“The Colorado Smart Cities Alliance is advancing policies and technologies that will better equip Colorado residents to live, work, and play in a future that is increasingly being shaped by the complex challenges of urban growth,” says Jake Rishavy, vice president of innovation at the Denver South Economic Development Partnership. “We’re working to create a 21st-century technology infrastructure right here in Colorado that will help to enhance everyone’s quality of life, particularly as our communities continue to grow.”

Among its activities, CSCA hosts regular “Civic Labs” events around the state to share challenges, expertise and solutions. At the Denver Smart City Forum in June, speakers described “smart” technology as having to be about the people who use it and benefit from it, that is, human-centered design and thinking.

“People, not technology, will create smart cities,” said Colorado’s Chief Innovation Officer Erik Mitisek.

To find out more and get involved in the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance, visit http://coloradosmart.city/

For more about the recent forum and DesignThinkingDenver, read http://www.cobizmag.com/Trends/Smart-Cities-Arent/ and http://www.cobizmag.com/Trends/Denver-Digs-Deep-on-Smart-City-Development-and-Implementation/

 

Originally posted here by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Wednesday, September 26th, 2018 at 11:31am.

Posted on October 6, 2018 at 8:09 am
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Boulder Rent Prices Decline

The usual story of ever-rising Boulder rents took a new turn this month. Data for August 2018 shows Boulder rents fell slightly by 0.1 percent last month and by 0.1 percent year-over-year, according to the latest report from rental site Apartment List.

That translates into median apartment rent of $1,150 for a one-bedroom and $1,410 for two-bedrooms. But even with the minor dip, Boulder’s median two-bedroom rent is above the national average of $1,180.

Nationwide rental rates went up about 1.5 percent, which the report found is down from a high of 3.6 percent in 2015.

Compared to the state and nation, Boulder’s rental price growth is below average. The city lags the state average of 0.4 percent rent growth year-over-year.

Rent also decreased in Colorado’s City of Aurora with a reduction of 0.8 percent year-over-year. A two-bedroom apartment in Aurora rents for $1,560.

But statewide, rental prices continue to trend upward. Colorado’s rental prices rose 0.4 percent over the past year. Eight of Colorado’s ten largest cities show rising rents.

Loveland, Thornton, and Westminster all have year-over-year growth above the state average with rent increases of 2.8 percent, 2.6 percent, and 1.9 percent, respectively.

Thornton is the most expensive of all Colorado’s major cities with a median two-bedroom rent of $1,860.

Many cities nationwide saw increases, including Phoenix, Atlanta, and San Francisco, rising 2.5, 1.5 and 1.1 percent, respectively.

Orlando has the fastest rent growth in the nation with an increase of 5.3 percent over last year. Second in the nation is Riverside, CA with 4.1 percent year-over-year growth, followed in third place by Anaheim at 3.6 percent.

The state of Nevada leads the country for the fastest rent growth at 3 percent, followed by Arizona at 2.2 percent.

Apartment List determines rent standings using reliable median rent statistics from the Census Bureau and extrapolates forward to the current month using a growth rate calculated from Apartment List listing data.

You can read the full report at https://www.apartmentlist.com/co/boulder#rent-report, see the national rental statistics at https://www.apartmentlist.com/rentonomics/national-rent-data/. If you want to know where rents are growing fastest, visit https://www.apartmentlist.com/rentonomics/rents-growing-fastest/.

 

Originally posted here by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Monday, September 17th, 2018 at 2:39pm.

Posted on September 24, 2018 at 7:50 pm
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The danger of Boulder’s CAVE people thinking

Let’s face it, what happens in Boulder affects the rest of Boulder Valley in terms of housing, transportation, economics and myriad other dimensions.  If you want to know where your neighborhood is headed, it’s informative to know what Boulder is doing, even if you live in say, Erie.  And, if you even casually follow Boulder politics these days, you might be perplexed and concerned by the (seemingly) increasingly bizarre actions coming from Boulder’s City Council.

For a council that purports to support the environment, public safety, and inclusivity, its recent actions don’t seem to match its rhetoric.  In my opinion, however, its actions make sense when you understand the true underlying motivations and desires — and to do that, you have to understand Boulder’s CAVE people.

Who are Boulder’s CAVE people and what do they want?

Simply put, I call these people “Citizens Against Virtually Everything” (CAVE), and they seem to have the ear of the majority of the current council.  It appears that the plurality of Boulder’s CAVE people arrived in Boulder in the 1960s and ‘70s as students, hippies, ski bums, etc.  They decided to stay, bought homes here, and have become relatively well off as Boulder’s home price appreciation outstripped virtually everywhere else in the country.  At the same time, they seem not to like the multiple dimensions of growth Boulder has enjoyed over the last several decades; indeed, their strongest desire is apparently to see Boulder return to as it was “back then,” with fewer people, fewer businesses, less crowding, etc.  Their apparent goals, then, are to slow, stop, or reverse growth of all kinds in Boulder.  Their tactics appear to be to (disingenuously?) cloak themselves in the rhetoric of environmentalism, populism, and liberalism in order to achieve these goals.

Recent examples of CAVE people tactics and their effects:

1. South Boulder Flood Mitigation Plan.  The 2013 flood brought the issue of flood mitigation to the front of everyone’s minds in Boulder Valley, but the study of how to best deal with this issue in South Boulder goes back well before then.  After nearly a decade of study, and more than $2 million in fees and environmental studies, and extensive public engagement, the City Council had a few feasible flood mitigation plans, one of which (500-Year Variant 2), had the support of the University of Colorado (the property owner), the city’s Water Resources Advisory Board, and general public.  One would think, then, that it would be an easy decision for the City Council to support.  One, however, would be wrong.

Recently, the Boulder City Council voted to proceed with a different flood mitigation plan, one that is opposed by CU, disregards expert testimony, the preferences of the city’s Water Resources Advisory Board, and general public sentiment. 

Why would the council disregard science, experts, reason, common sense and nearby residents?  Using the lens of CAVE people logic, it may be because they believe that taking a position in opposition to all of these things will greatly slow the process of CU developing that land, which fits the goals of “slow, stop, reverse.”

2. Sales Tax Revenue. Cities like Boulder depend on sales tax revenue as an important component of their budgets.  Earlier this year, Boulder reported a $4 million budget shortfall, attributable primarily to flattening sales tax in the city — at a time when nearby cities are enjoying double digit growth in their sales tax revenues.  Members of the City Council held a study session on the topic on July 10 in which some members declared that they apparently want fewer visitors to Boulder (both tourists and locals from neighboring cities).  They expressed these opinions even with the knowledge that locals already visit downtown Boulder an average of seven times per month, but tourists spend several times what locals do per visit.

Why, in a city that prides itself on being welcoming and at a time when sales tax revenues are falling, would members of council declare an apparent desire for fewer tourist (and accompanying tax dollars)?

3.  Increased housing density. Council members often voice their support for efforts to provide inclusive housing, reduce Boulder’s carbon footprint, and improve our city’s environmental sustainability; however, when it comes to increased density — the thing that would arguably go the farthest toward achieving those aspirations — the council’s words do not match their deeds.  Boulder’s draconian housing restrictions, including the 1 percent cap on annual residential growth (which we’ve never actually hit), blanket height restrictions, severe occupancy limits, among other measures, has forced our workforce to largely live outside the city.  This, in turn, causes the more than 60,000 daily commutes into and out of Boulder. By simply ameliorating some of these harsh policies, and allowing a modicum of sustainable and smart development, Boulder could include more of its workforce within city limits and could considerably lessen its environmental impact.

Why, then, has the city actively resisted efforts that would address these critical housing and environmental issues?  One possibility — CAVE people logic: if it is extremely difficult to add housing density, not only will it slow population growth, it will force workers into longer commutes and growing frustration.  Over time, businesses will relocate to areas more accessible to their workforce, and there will be fewer people, fewer jobs, less congestion… like it was “back then.”

What’s to come?

Rather than building a bridge to the future, Boulder’s CAVE people seem intent on digging a trench to the past.  In fact, their efforts seem to be achieving results — not only did Boulder run a budget deficit, but its population actually decreased between 2016 and 2017.  There is no stasis for cities — they are either growing or dying.  It seems the CAVE people are succeeding at pushing their agenda of “slow, stop, reverse,” through council.  And if they win, all of us who are truly for the environment, public safety, and inclusivity will lose.

 

Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.

Originally posted by BizWest on Wednesday, June 1st, 2018. Original found here.

Posted on September 2, 2018 at 6:11 pm
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Boulder Valley housing holds strong amidst July pullback

Boulder-area housing continues to reach new heights, shrugging off a pullback in July sales.

“Prices in Boulder Valley are at an all-time high in both single-family and attached homes. Also inventory challenges are ongoing. Despite both of those realities, housing demand is absolutely holding,” says Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area REALTOR® Association.

The City of Boulder July average sales price reached more than $1.3 million – a 15.4 percent increase for the year. Median price hit $984,648. While Boulder’s prices are the highest, every area in Boulder County saw an increase in average sales price ranging from 3.5 percent in Superior to 17.7 percent in Niwot year-to-date.

However, July sales slowed from the previous month, following the typical late summer pattern of a month-over-month slowdown. Sales declined for single-family and attached homes in July compared to June, 2018. Single-family home sales in the Boulder-area markets dropped 16 percent—418 vs. 498 units—while condominium and townhome sales fell 32.8 percent—127 units vs. 189.

Hotard says this year’s July slowdown is a little more pronounced than last year.

Even so, year-to-date single-family home sales were virtually unchanged with a 1.0 percent increase compared to the prior year with 2,666 homes sold compared to 2,639. Attached home sales over the same period improved 5.8 percent; 914 vs. 864 units sold.

Inventory held its own. There was essentially no change in single-family home inventory levels, which rose .8 percent across Boulder County in July compared to June, 2018 with 1,013 vs. 1,004 homes available for sale. Condo/townhome inventory grew 1.3 percent in July compared to the previous month with 241 units for sale vs. 238.

Hotard notes there is potentially downward pressure on the market with interest rates trending upward and prices rising faster than wages in the area.

“But with demand as it is, we’re just going to keep moving forward,” he says.

Hotard adds that real estate is a “dynamic industry and Realtors are responding to the challenges by continuing to advise their clients on successful strategies for selling and purchasing homes.”

 

Originally posted here by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Monday, August 27th, 2018 at 2:45pm.

 

Posted on August 28, 2018 at 4:28 pm
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Where will Boulder’s workforce of the future live?

The Boulder Economic Summit was held on May 22 and the focus was on the workforce of the future. The Boulder Economic Council rightly identified this as a key to Boulder County’s continued vitality and prosperity.  There were vibrant discussions about the growing importance of skills to both employers and employees, shifting employment patterns, how businesses can embrace Millennials, and more.

From a real estate perspective, the most thought provoking session was the roundtable discussion on “Addressing Housing and Transportation,” in which participants were asked to discuss what their businesses are experiencing in terms of housing and mobility needs, what they are doing to address them, and what possible solutions they see.  From this discussion, it became evident that the majority of many businesses’ employees live outside the city, that many of those employees would like to live in Boulder, and that there are myriad housing and transportation challenges facing businesses and employees.

Many of the proposed solutions will sound familiar: some additional housing, including ADUs (“granny flats”) throughout the city and multi-family housing in the light industrial areas along the east Arapahoe corridor; adding additional lanes to some of the major arteries to/from Boulder, especially along Arapahoe/Highway 7 and the Diagonal; more and “better placed” park-n-ride lots; more parking spaces throughout the city; more and better alternative transportation options, and possibly some shared shuttle services among Boulder businesses. 

Many participants expressed the opinion that they believe some of these solutions are viable, but they acknowledged that most of them would require the willingness and coordination of city and county governments.  The scope of these issues is supported by the estimated 50,000 — 60,000 people who commute into Boulder for work each day, half of whom purportedly want to live in the city, and the fact that currently there are no single family homes in Boulder on the market for less than $575,000 (and that only gets you 966 square feet).

The bottom line takeaway from this discussion was that if Boulder cannot find better ways to address its housing and transportation issues, it risks losing its economic vigor as more and more businesses will choose to relocate to more hospitable areas.  More than one employer at the roundtable lamented that if they cannot solve some of these issues, they will likely have to move their business elsewhere. 

Let’s face it, Boulder does not make it easy on businesses or their employees. Among other things, businesses in Boulder have to contend with sky-high affordable housing linkage fees on commercial development (which will ultimately be borne by tenants and consumers), complex and changing zoning and use regulations, rapidly growing commercial property taxes, and a dearth of parking spaces.  Employees face a severe lack of affordable housing to purchase, expensive rent or long — and increasingly frustrating — commutes, and difficulty finding parking (and not enough public and alternative transportation options).

There is always room for hope in Boulder, one of the brainiest (and best) cities in America, and an excellent example is the city council’s recent openness to allowing additional ADUs.  It’s not a panacea, but it’s a start.

Envisioning our workforce of the future is a great and useful undertaking, but if Boulder cannot (or will not) address its mounting housing and transportation issues, the workforce of the future will be happily employed… elsewhere.

 

Jay Kalinski is broker/owner of Re/Max of Boulder.

Originally posted by BizWest on Wednesday, June 1st, 2018. Original found here.

Posted on June 2, 2018 at 9:05 am
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