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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Colorado’s Top Cities for First-Time Home Buyers

Nine Colorado cities rank in the top 50 best cities for first-time home buyers, according to recent analysis by WalletHub, a personal finance website. Four of those made the top 20 – Centennial, Thornton, Arvada and Greeley, coming in at Nos. 3, 6, 17, and 20, respectively.

With home prices rising in Colorado and across the nation, buying a first home is challenging. Potential buyers need to develop a realistic perspective on market prices, their financing options, and neighborhoods that have a good reputation and appeal to their lifestyle.

To help potential buyers target possible locations, WalletHub compared 300 cities of varying sizes across 27 key indicators of market attractiveness, affordability, and quality of life. Data includes important factors like cost of living, real-estate taxes, and property-crime rate.

Here are the rankings of the Colorado cities reported:

3. Centennial

6. Thornton

17. Arvada

20. Greeley

23. Longmont

25. Fort Collins

27. Colorado Springs

28. Westminster

39. Pueblo

51. Denver

67. Aurora

137. Boulder

 

Among those cities, Colorado Springs has the fourth-lowest real estate tax rate in the nation.

First-time home buyers are often in the millennial generation. As it turns out, Colorado is the ninth-best state for millennials, according to a separate WalletHub report.

Millennials – those born between 1981 and 1997 – make up over 35% of the workforce. While often thought of as “kids,” the oldest are 37 years old.

In addition to a total score of 9, Colorado ranks high for quality of life (7), economic health (3) and civic engagement (10).  No. 1 ranked District of Columbia also ranked first in the nation for quality of life and civic engagement.

Colorado was evaluated along with all 50 states and the District of Columbia across 30 key metrics, ranging from share of millennials to millennial unemployment rate to millennial voter-turnout rate.

Here’s a look at the top 10 states for millennials:

For more information, see the full reports at https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-cities-for-first-time-home-buyers/5564/#methodology and https://wallethub.com/edu/best-states-for-millennials/33371/ .

 

 

Posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Friday, August 24th, 2018 at 10:36am.

Posted on August 25, 2018 at 7:19 am
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Boulder Economic Summit 2018: Skilled Workers Essential to Boulder’s Future, Housing a Key Issue

Boulder County excels at attracting talented and skilled workers. But change is in the air, says futurist Josh Davies, CEO at The Center for Work Ethic Development and keynote speaker at the recent Boulder Economic Summit 2018: The Workforce of the Future.

Statistics presented by futurist Davies suggest that if the last decade rocked with rapid change on the job-front, hang on to your Smartphone – the future promises to be a rocket-ride.

And, the future starts now.

Today, Boulder County employers are going head-to-head with the rest of the world. Local businesses compete globally for highly skilled workers integral to business success, yet these workers are too few in number to fill the demand. If corrective steps aren’t taken, the worker shortage will continue and potentially worsen, predict speakers at the Summit.  Success is critical, since Boulder County’s thriving economy, vitality and quality of life depends on local businesses continuing to engage world-class, highly skilled people.

Hosted by the Boulder Economic Council (BEC) and the Boulder Chamber at CU-Boulder, the Boulder Economic Summit brought experts and hundreds of community leaders together to evaluate Boulder’s competitiveness in the global demand for talent. In breakout sessions and roundtable discussions, the group explored how education and workforce development must evolve to keep up with the impacts of automation, immigration, globalization and other forces affecting future jobs.

There Will Be Robots. Lots of Robots.

People, get ready. Futurist Davies says the robots are coming and in more ways than ever expected.

The growth will be explosive: 1.7 new industrial robots will be in use by 2020, with robots performing tasks in homes and offices – not just in manufacturing, says Davies.

In his talk, 2030: The Workplace Revolution, Davies highlighted how technology will change our jobs in the coming decade and the pressing need for skill development and preparation.

With advances in technology and creative disruption in industries, employment has shifted, explains Davies, adding that 85 percent of jobs in 2030 haven’t been created yet. By then, computers will function at the speed of the human brain. He warns that increased automation and artificial intelligence will significantly alter employment needs and businesses should be prepared.

Low-skilled and entry-level and other jobs that perform repetitive tasks will no longer be available to human workers – computers and robots will fill that need. While companies do not like to replace people with robots, if robots cost 15-20 percent less, humans will lose out.

Davies predicts retail jobs will be replaced by robots at a very high rate, even though it is the leading profession in most states. Sixteen million retail workers will need to be retrained for new jobs.

His strategies for the future are to recognize that whether tasks are cognitive or non-cognitive, repetitive tasks can be automated. To succeed, workers need to develop non-cognitive skills: problem-solving, critical thinking and empathy.

Acquiring New Skills Critical to Success

Andi Rugg, executive director of Skillful Colorado, says one-third of the American workforce will need new skills to find work by 2030.

In her talk, Understanding the Skills Gap, Rugg emphasizes that training and retraining are the path to success, not only for the coming decade, but for today. There are 6.3 million unfilled jobs in the U.S. today because there’s currently not enough talent to bridge the gap between employer requirements and the workforce.

Rugg stresses that hiring needs to become skills-based, since we are in a skills-based economy. Her statistics are hard hitting:

  • Jobs requiring college degrees exceed the number of workers who have them.
  • Seventy percent of job ads for administrative assistants ask for a college degree, but only 20 percent of administrative assistants have a college degree.
  • Only 3 in 10 adults in the U.S. have a bachelor’s degree – demand for bachelor’s degree is outstripping supply of workers who have them.
  • Only 35 percent of Boulder County’s skilled workers have a degree and Colorado ranks No. 48in the nation for the number of people of color with a degree.
  • Employers need to be more agile in hiring and realize that skills can bridge the gap.
  • Employers need to focus on skills to address inequities in the labor market.
  • Employers should also offer upskilling and lifelong learning for employees.
  • Skills-matching improves employee retention and engagement as well as reduces the time to hire and ultimately reduces turnover costs for the employer.

Housing and Transportation Keys to the Solution

In a roundtable discussion led by RE/MAX of Boulder Broker/Owner Jay Kalinski, the team tackled one of Boulder County’s looming challenges in attracting workers to Boulder County – affordable housing and transportation options that enable commuting. The group developed possible solutions to ease transportation and affordable housing issues.

Photo caption for photo above: Jay Kalinski, RE/MAX of Boulder Broker/Owner (left} leads a roundtable discussion to develop transportation and affordable housing solutions.

Learn more about the discussion in Jay Kalinski’s article in BizWest, “Where will Boulder’s workforce of the future live?” at: https://bizwest.com/2018/06/01/where-will-boulders-workforce-of-the-future-live/?member=guest

Community Collaboration

In breakout sessions and the closing plenary, discussions revolved around ways the community can address workforce and economic development by bringing together private sector businesses and industry with educational institutions and organizations, government, and nonprofits in collaboration.

Through this joint effort, our community can prepare students with the workforce skills needed in the future that cannot be automated; develop business-relevant class content; roll out real-life technical projects in classrooms; re-train workers; and offer apprenticeships, internships, and work-based learning alongside education or as standalone, all of which can help workers gain skills.

Learn more by reading the Boulder Economic Council and Boulder Chamber’s recently published “Boulder Innovation Venture Report” at: https://bouldereconomiccouncil.org/whats_new_with_the_bec/boulder-innovation-venture-report/

Posted by Tom Kalinski Founder RE/MAX of Boulder on Wednesday, June 20th, 2018 at 11:25am.
Posted on June 21, 2018 at 5:38 pm
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The one statistic every renter needs to see

By Jay Kalinski — 

That’s right, based on the latest available data from the Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances, the average net worth of a homeowner is $231,000, a whopping 44 times greater than the average renter’s $5,200 net worth.  What makes the situation more dire is the fact that the gap is widening.  From 2013 to 2016, the average net worth of homeowners increased 15 percent while the average net worth of renters decreased by 5 percent. The situation for renters is bad and getting worse.

More than any other factor I could identify, homeownership best explains the gap between the haves and have nots. People seem to understand this fact, as a Gallup poll showed that Americans chose real estate as the best long-term investment for the fourth year in a row. So, why aren’t more renters buying homes?

Desire?

It could be that renters do not want to own homes. Anecdotally, we hear stories about how Millennials prefer to rent to give them a more flexible lifestyle, but the research tells a different story. In fact, Millennials represent the largest share of homebuyers today and only 7 percent of respondents to an NAR survey said that they did not want the responsibility of owning. More generally, 82 percent of renters expressed a desire in the fourth quarter of 2017 to be homeowners and about the same percentage said that homeownership is part of the American Dream.

What is driving this desire for renters to become owners? According to a recent survey, the main reasons renters would want to buy a home are: a change in lifestyle such as getting married, starting a family or retiring; an improved financial situation; and a desire to settle down in one location.

Renters seem to know that owning a home is a great investment, and they overwhelmingly express a desire to do so, and yet something is preventing many of them:

Ability

Based on a recent NAR survey, it appears that ability (perceived or actual) is the biggest obstacle to homeownership. In fact, 66 percent of renters reported that it would be somewhat or very difficult to save for a downpayment on a home. Only 16 percent said that it would not be difficult at all. Of those who said saving for a downpayment was difficult, 49 percent identified student loans, 42 percent cited credit card debt, and 37 percent cited car loans.

The above, however, only focuses on one aspect of home affordability. Another side is home price appreciation.  That is, if homes were more affordable, it would be easier to save for a downpayment.  Unfortunately for local renters, Boulder County has appreciated more since 1991 than any other area in the country — more than 380 percent! The average single family Boulder County home topped $708,000 in February 2018, which is almost 20 percent higher than two years ago.

In addition, interest rates are on the rise in 2018, and we’ve already covered how a 1 percent increase in interest rates can reduce your purchasing power by 10 percent.

Takeaways

There are two takeaways from this. First, for renters, you may be familiar with the adage “The best time to buy a home was 30 years ago. The second best time is now.” That is true now more than ever. If you have been considering making the jump to homeownership, now is the time. At this point, each day delayed likely equals less home for the money.

Second, for local government officials, if you truly support the idea of affordable (market rate) workforce housing, you have the power to encourage it. Without you, the affordability situation will only continue to deteriorate.

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

 

Posted on April 10, 2018 at 7:51 pm
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