The end may be here (but don’t panic)

At this time last year, our market was experiencing all-time highs for average home prices and all-time lows for housing inventory.  Many of the market indicators we track were pointing to continued strong demand and price appreciation, especially with the continued influx of people into Boulder and Broomfield counties.  And yet, with home price appreciation outstripping wage gains for the better part of a decade, in the back of everyone’s minds was the question: “How long can this go on?”  We may now be starting to get our answer.

The big picture

In 2018 last summer, the Federal Housing Finance Agency measured the average appreciation nationally at 6.89 percent which slowed this year to 5.05 percent.  Then, FHFA ranked Colorado as having the fourth-highest one-year appreciation in the country, at 10.63 percent.  Boulder County ranked 68th among metropolitan areas in the country with 8.25 percent appreciation.  This year, Colorado has dropped to 28th, with 4.78 percent appreciation, while Boulder fell to number 91 with 6.14 percent appreciation  So, Colorado and Boulder County are cooling compared to the rest of the country, but, as a bright spot, Boulder County’s appreciation since 1991 still leads the entire nation at 417.28 percent.

There are 10 statistics we track to gauge the state of the residential real estate market, and studying the movement of these indicators can give you a good sense of the direction of the market.  For most of this decade, those indicators have generally pointed toward a rising market, marked by tight inventory, brisk appreciation, quick sales, and low months of inventory (the time it would take to sell all existing homes if no new homes entered the market).  At the close of the second quarter of 2019, we are seeing a strong shift for both the single-family homes and attached dwellings (see charts).

As you can see, nearly every indicator we track is pointing to a softening, shifting market, aside from interest rates.  And while Months of Inventory still indicates a seller’s market, the trajectory is moving toward a balanced market (between five and seven months of inventory).

And now for the good news

If you are an aspiring buyer in Boulder County, your timing is excellent: inventory is up, so you have more homes to choose from; prices are flat or falling, so you may be able to get a (relative) bargain; and interest rates have dropped once again, so you can get more house for the money.

If you are a homeowner or thinking of selling, the news is not all bad: you’ve rode an impressive wave of appreciation for the better part of a decade; and even when Boulder’s market stalls, it typically does not lose much value (even in the great recession, home prices only dropped about 5 percent).

Remember, don’t panic.  Boulder is still the best place in the country to invest in real estate.

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

Posted on August 1, 2019 at 1:00 pm
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Boulder-Area Home Sales Warm As Spring Approaches

February’s Boulder-area home sales shook off January’s real estate chill with a rise in sales all around. But even with the significant jump for the month, sales for the year still lag compared with last year, which could be good news for those ready to buy a home in this competitive market.

Single-family home sales for Boulder rose 26.1 percent in February – 232 homes sold compared with 184 last month. In condominium/townhomes, 78 units sold in February, a 9.8 percent improvement compared with January’s 71 units sold.

“It was good to see the February rebound in sales for both single-family and attached dwellings. But year-over-year, sales are behind in both. We’re definitely getting a slower start to the year,” says Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor® Association.

Year-over-year, single-family home sales dropped 14.8 percent through February 2019 with 426 Boulder-area homes sold vs. 500 the previous year. Condo/townhomes slid 20.8 percent over the same period with 152 units sold vs. 192.

Inventory is virtually unchanged going up .013 percent for single-family homes with 723 homes for sales in February compared to 722 in January. Condos and townhomes saw a 5.4 percent increase in inventory over the same period with 254 units compared to 241.

“The cause of the slowdown is unclear,” says Hotard. “Interest rates aren’t rising. It seems that demand, which has been strong for several years, has eased a bit.”

This can be good news for buyers who are looking for an opening to jump in the Boulder County market. With inventory holding steady and demand easing, the buying environment may be somewhat less competitive than it has been for the past several years.

“What we need is more middle-income housing in Boulder County, that is, housing priced at $600,000 and below,” Hotard notes. “Areas like Erie, Longmont, and Lyons offer homes that are in that sweet spot of affordability, but we could use new housing in that price range.”

 

Originally posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Wednesday, March 27th, 2019.

 

Posted on April 3, 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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November Sales Head in Opposite Directions

A tale of two markets emerged in November, as Boulder County’s single-family home sales skidded to a stop, while townhomes and condos took a significant leap forward.

Single-family home sales in the Boulder-area markets dropped 14.4 percent in November compared to October —310 vs. 362 homes—while condominium and townhome sales rose 14.5 percent—126 units vs. 110.

Yet when data for 2018’s first 11 months is considered, the two markets tracked closely together, and both appear to be slowing, according to Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor® Association.

“This is the first month single-family home sales fell below last year, and condos and townhomes are only slightly ahead,” Hotard explains.

Year-to-date through November, sales of single-family homes decreased 1.4 percent compared to the prior year with 4,205 homes sold vs. 4,266. Attached home sales over the same period improved 3.3 percent – 1,445 vs. 1,399 units sold.

Inventory decreased in both housing categories, though more significantly for single-family homes, which dropped 13.1 percent in November compared to October with 821 vs. 945 Boulder County homes for sale. Condo/townhome inventory fell 6.1 percent in November compared to the previous month with 263 units for sale vs. 280.

“My guess is the growth of the townhome/condo market is due to a larger inventory and more affordable pricing,” says Hotard. “Interest rates are making people jumpy, but the reality is that mortgage rates are still historically low. The more complete view is the inventory and pricing dynamics of the Boulder-area markets.”

He notes that single-family home sales could recover in December, but it’s not likely.

“We have the ongoing headwinds of low inventory and rising prices. When we look back, we’ll see 2018 as market slowdown for housing in our market areas,” Hotard predicts.

Despite the slow-down in housing, Colorado’s economy continues to show strength, wage growth is increasing, and gross domestic product is up, according to recent news reports.

“What the Boulder-area needs is more housing that is desirable and more affordable for people,” adds Hotard.

 

Originally posted here by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Thursday, January 3rd, 2019 at 10:13am.

Posted on January 3, 2019 at 11:13 pm
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What it’s like to be a first-time homebuyer in 2018

“Ever since we moved out here, we’ve been keeping an eye on the market,” Gibson says. “We see new houses go on the market, but that for-sale sign goes down and a for-rent sign takes its place, and so we’re competing with people that have the ability to buy multiple homes just to rent them out.”

The Gibsons live just north of Boulder in the town of Longmont, Colo. The Boulder area is one of the toughest markets for first-time buyers — and the epicenter of a growing housing affordability crisis.

“The country as a whole has been generally appreciating since coming out of the recession in 2011, 2012. Boulder has definitely led the way in a lot of ways,” says RE/MAX of Boulder’s Jay Kalinski, who is also the chair-elect of the Boulder Area Realtor Association. “Since 1991, we’ve appreciated more than anywhere else in the country — I think for over 400% appreciation since then. Our average single-family house in the city of Boulder now is around $1.2 million.” (The average price of a new home in the U.S. is $377,200, as of September, according to the Census.)

Yahoo Finance visited Boulder for HuffPost’s Listen to America town hall series installment on housing affordability and to talk to residents and local officials about the issues facing potential buyers in a market that serves as a snapshot of what’s happening across the country.

When you look at the affordability index, we’re getting less and less affordable as a community,” Kalinski says. “We’re becoming more akin to something like an Aspen or a Silicon Valley, where our home prices just are not going to support people who are making an average or even a good income.”

Watch the full HuffPost Listen to America town hall for To Develop Or Preserve: A Conversation About Affordable Housing In Boulder, CO.

Boulder City Council member Jill Adler Grano, who spoke at the Listen To America town hall, has been concerned with buyers getting priced out of the Boulder market for some time. “Unless you have money from another source or a lot of money saved up — a trust fund something like that — it’s very difficult to save for that down payment,” she says.

But there are steps the city is taking to address the issue. “As a city, we’re working on a pretty aggressive affordable housing program, so we have a goal of having 10% of our housing stock be permanently affordable,” she says. “At first that was all just for people making below area median income, but now we’ve realized that middle class is actually above area median income, so we’ve added another 5% goal for those making even above area median income but still being priced out of our city.”

But that path to homeownership has its own drawbacks, Kalinski says. “On the bright side, it means you can have a home in Boulder, you can live here at a reduced rate,” he says. “The downside is you don’t get the benefits of homeownership. Your growth is capped at 3% a year, and when the rest of the city is growing it’s a 10% to 15%, you’re giving up all of that upside.”

If income-sensitive housing isn’t an option, there are other routes cash-strapped buyers can take, including a trend Kalinski calls “driving until you qualify” that’s popular in the Boulder area. “First-time home buyers can either look a little further out or they can talk to their friends and family about trying to get a bigger down payment together to get into a market-rate home,” Kalinski says.

As for the Gibsons, they’re pressing ahead and trying to maintain a positive outlook. “I walk my dog around a lot and look at for-sale signs, look at ads, just trying to get an idea of what the market is,” Gibson says. “And hope that our hopes aren’t dashed when we get into a bidding war with about 10 other couples that are also trying to buy the same home.”

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter.

Originally posted here on Yahoo Finance.

Posted on November 7, 2018 at 11:34 pm
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Proposition 110 better serves Boulder Valley

Since Boulder’s anti-growth sentiments seem not to be going anywhere anytime soon, the condition of our roadways has become increasingly important to our economy in general and to commuters in particular.  The worse the condition of our roads, the longer commutes take and the more money commuters have to spend on auto maintenance — and the less attractive Boulder Valley becomes to workers (and employers). If you have spent any time traveling around Boulder and Broomfield counties, you know our roads are in a sad state of disrepair.  As much as I cast a skeptical eye at many of the proposed tax increases we are asked to consider, something must be done to fix our roads and support the continued vitality of our region.

There are two transportation funding propositions on the ballot this fall, and one of them — Let’s Go, Colorado (Proposition 110) — deserves your vote.

If Proposition 110 passes, there would be a 0.62 percent sales tax over 20 years to provide money for both state and local transportation priorities.  Projected revenue from the tax is $767 million for the first year, and while that sounds like a lot of money, it pales in comparison to the $9 billion transportation funding shortfall that we are facing.

If you have lived in Boulder for a considerable time, you may well remember with consternation how we were taxed with the promise of light rail connections from Boulder Valley to Denver, only to see that money spent on building out the South Metro area’s light rail system, while we were left with nothing.  You would be forgiven for responding with an expletive the first time you heard about these new funding proposals.  However, since the light rail tax debacle, a new advocate — Commuting Solutions — has risen to champion transportation causes in our area and has worked in this case to ensure that money will be allocated to address our most important needs.  In fact, if Proposition 110 passes, Commuting Solutions (and its coalition partners) has ensured that our key local needs are included on the CDOT approved project list, with up to $915 million for the following projects:

• Colorado Highway 119 (Boulder – Longmont)

• Colorado Highway 7 (Boulder – Brighton)

• U.S. 287; Colorado Highway 66 (Longmont – Broomfield)

• 28th Street/Broadway (Boulder)

• Colorado Highway 95/Sheridan (Westminster)

• Colorado Highway 7/I-25 Interchange (Broomfield/Adams)

While I understand and appreciate the sentiment behind “Fix Our Dam Roads” (Proposition 109), our local needs are not guaranteed to be addressed and this $3.5 billion bond measure is not paid for; that is, the legislature would likely be forced to cut the state budget in other areas, causing trade-offs that many citizens might not want to make.

Our roads are in a dire state, which will negatively affect our economy, housing values, and quality of life, if not addressed. I support Let’s Go, Colorado (Proposition 110) because the time has come to repair our roads and Commuting Solutions and its partners have succeeded in ensuring that money will be allocated to projects critical to Boulder Valley if it passes.

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

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

Posted on October 18, 2018 at 3:29 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 County Home Sales Soar into Late Summer

Home sales in Boulder-area single-family and attached housing markets rose in August along with the late summer heat index.

Single-family home sales increased 10 percent in August 2018 compared to July with 460 homes sold in Boulder-area markets vs. 418. Sales for condominiums and townhomes climbed 15 percent with 146 units sold vs. 127.

Meanwhile, Denver-metro home sales went in the opposite direction, slowing significantly over the same period, according to the Denver Post.

It’s testament to the state of Boulder Valley real estate market, according to Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor® Association.

“We have our own little market here. While Denver dipped, Boulder Valley showed strong growth in sales, despite ongoing rising prices and inventory squeeze,” says Hotard.

Year-to-date sales also continue to climb steadily. Single-family home sales grew 1.7 percent through August 2018 compared to last year – 3,154 homes sold vs. 3,100. Attached homes followed a similar track, improving 1.6 percent year-to-date – 1,154 sold in 2018 compared with 1,135 in 2017.

Inventory dropped 2.0 percent for single-family homes – 993 units in August 2018 vs. July’s 1,013. But condo/townhomes available for sale grew 11.2 percent with 268 units available in August vs. 241 the previous month.

Hotard attributes the unceasing increase in real estate sales and prices to the area’s strong economy and continued job growth, along with a desirable quality of life. “Significant companies are hiring in Boulder, like Zayo, Google, Twitter – and the natural foods industry is strong,” he adds.

Interest rates are slowly pushing upward, which traditionally results in a slowdown in rising home prices and sales. But Boulder Valley’s housing market may not readily respond to interest rate increases.

“It’s unknown what the tipping point is for interest rates affecting our housing market. And with 35 percent of Boulder County homes bought with cash, rising interest rates may not have a significant effect locally,” says Hotard.

Looking ahead to the final quarter of the year, Hotard expects sales to continue to match those of last year, unless “something unusual happens.”

“We seem to be operating on an upward trend and it’s hard to see what would stop it. The real challenge for Boulder County is providing the housing and transportation infrastructure to support job growth.”

 

Originally posted here by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018 at 10:46am.

Posted on October 4, 2018 at 10:59 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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