Affordable housing is a community value

Golden City Council candidates talk affordable housing

Posted 10/7/19

Golden values having a diverse community. One way it accomplishes this is by striving to ensure there is a range of housing options available to all who want to live in Golden. “All cities …

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Affordable housing is a community value

Golden City Council candidates talk affordable housing

Posted

Golden values having a diverse community.

One way it accomplishes this is by striving to ensure there is a range of housing options available to all who want to live in Golden.

“All cities universally value the ability for residents to be able to purchase and maintain safe, livable and desirable housing without having to be overburdened by the costs of doing so,” said Golden City Councilmember Casey Brown who is running unopposed to be re-elected to represent District 2. “The extraordinary growth in Colorado's population has only exacerbated the problem and helped to increase the costs of both rental and for-sale housing at a rate that greatly exceeds the growth in the median income of Golden residents.”

This is not a new problem for the community. Back in 2008, Golden's Housing Affordability Task Force gathered data and concluded “there is an imbalance between housing costs and median household incomes in Golden” and that “community actions to create a better balance are warranted.”

Now, more than a decade later, the demand for affordable housing in Golden still continues to be a challenge. And it is on the minds of Golden City Council candidates as the Nov. 5 election day approaches.

It's important to remember that “affordable housing in Golden is in the context of the metro area,” said Laura Weinberg, who is running for mayor.

But while the problem is metro-wide, she said, the solutions can be Golden specific. And in Golden, one problem that further complicates housing affordability is the community's desirability.

“There is an increasing demand for housing which has driven up costs,” Weinberg said, “and our limited supply of housing has compounded the problem.”

Don Cameron, also a candidate for the mayoral seat, added that 95% of the city's workforce commutes to Golden for work. This is just one reason for the city to address housing, Cameron said.

“For Golden to remain a vital town and attractive to employers and employees,” Cameron said, “we need enough affordable housing.”

The availability of affordable housing in Golden affects multiple demographics. Golden has always had a diverse community consisting of a mix of young families, working professionals, students and seniors. Among them are professionals earning a range from low-income to high-end salaries, blue-collar and white-collar workers, and those with entry-level careers to chief executive officers.

Being that Golden is a desirable community to live in, it faces another unique challenge when it comes to providing enough affordable housing options.

“It is important to note that because of Golden's size and available resources, and the growth in real estate values,” Brown said, “we cannot build our way out of our affordable housing crunch.”

Solutions to affordable housing should “balance growth, density and development against our historical character and natural environment,” said Kim Brock, who is running to represent District 1 on city council.

“We have limited space to build, given where our city is located,” Brock said. “We need to balance that with smart growth. (And) smart growth requires an honest commitment to engaging the community, updating and enforcing zoning laws in place to guide development and protecting our neighborhood plans.”

JJ Trout, also running for the City Council District 1 seat, agreed.

“The best way forward to meet our overall vision will be to tailor solutions to each neighborhood based on their desires and characteristics, and include across- neighborhood conversations to achieve balance and equity,” Trout said. “This means it will be essential to collaborate with residents on a comprehensive plan that brings practical solutions that meet our growth and housing goals.”

As for the goal amount of affordable housing that should be available, the candidates pointed to the 45% goal identified in the city's comprehensive plan.

“The city should use its resources to ensure that at least 15% of the total housing stock is affordable to low income households, 15% is affordable to moderate income households and 15% is affordable to middle income households,” Brown said.

How to achieve that goal, however, is when the issue becomes problematic.

“The easiest and most straightforward way is to require below-market rate units be built or made available when development takes place,” Cameron said. “I don't know if that number is 10 or 25%, but it needs to not be zero.”

But there needs to be balance, Cameron added.

“We also need to be careful about allowing too much residential development in our commercial corridors,” Cameron said. “Commercial tax rates are higher and provide more money for city services than does residential.”

Golden's growth management system is effective in that it allows the city to “grow its housing numbers steadily,” Weinberg said.

But within that, “the city must monitor our housing mix to determine where there are gaps,” in the availability of affordable housing, Weinberg said. “Targeting the type of housing needed allows the city to partner with appropriate organizations for solutions.”

Assuring there is affordable housing available for both current and future residents is one of Golden's community values, Brown said.

“We will strive for diverse housing options to provide opportunity for a wide spectrum of residents,” Brown said. This helps Golden to be “an inclusive community, which is another of our heart and soul values.”

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