The following is a questionnaire from the East County Housing Opportunity Coalition that I was requested to fill out. During this campaign I’ve filled out many surveys, participated in some live interviews, and four candidate forums. At the outset those requesting participation most always promise the videos, surveys, forums, and questionnaires will be publicly available in short order. Sadly, that has not happened in several instances. So this time around I’m electing to post the filled-out questionnaire here, and I will point the organization that requested it to my website so they can obtain my responses.
In 250 – 500 words, what is your 10 year vision for affordable housing in Longmont?
I will use the term affordable housing to generically cover all the different housing categories, e.g. workforce housing. This is a tough nut to crack, and I’m not sure it is possible to do so in the comprehensive way I hear the topic discussed. The big problem in attempting to do so is that it generally violates well understood economic principles. We only need to look at the just released results of the annual Longmont satisfaction survey. Overall Longmont scored rather well. It’s a great place to live, good working options, nice weather, vibrant neighborhoods, a variety of shopping options, relatively low crime rate, etc. Against this backdrop of compelling reasons to live here we also want affordable housing? It reminds me of the saying that goes… “One can have any two of inexpensive, well-made, or fast, but never all three.”
The desire for affordable housing is easily understood. Every person would like their housing to be more affordable. It would mean more disposable income providing the ability to drive a nicer car, eat at better restaurants, and take more vacations. It’s such a universal truth that it lends itself to bumper sticker politics. Who could be against it? Can it be comprehensively achieved without making Longmont a worse place to live?
We moved to Longmont in 1997, and in a general way this issue was already being discussed. “Soon, no one will be able to buy a home. How can our children ever be able to move back? Workers can’t live here. Etc.” At the time we couldn’t afford a home in Boulder where I work, so we looked elsewhere and ended up in Longmont. It should be noted Boulder has been pursuing the affordable housing goal during the 25 years I’ve been here and likely prior to that as well, and the medium price of home there is now $1.075M. How is the affordable housing pursuit working out for our sister city? My career remains in Boulder, and I still can’t afford to live there.
Longmont does not exist in a bubble. It’s an easy commute to many surrounding communities and employment areas. Let’s imagine we can wave a magic wand and create the exact proportion of affordable housing we require for our city. In short order every person searching for housing in nearby cities would descend on Longmont and that affordable housing would immediately cease to exist.
If fortunate to be elected I’m happy to listen to ideas on this subject, and if a good idea is proposed that I believe is valid and sustainable I might support it. In the end though, I think the best option is to use thoughtful zoning and with an eye toward modestly priced single family neighborhoods that would benefit young families.
Longmont has a goal of achieving 12% affordable housing by 2035. Is this the right goal? What concrete proposals would you add to city policies to meet or exceed that goal?
I’m not a fan of the 12% goal, and in particular how I see it being executed, which is primarily by requiring 12% of units in new apartment complexes to meet the threshold. The fundamental problem with this is it doesn’t eliminate a burden, it merely shifts the burden those above the 12% threshold. It’s the government affirmatively picking winners and losers, and that leads us down paths with poor outcomes. I have met many residents during this campaign. I’m not sure I have met a single person happy with the propensity of the city to approve so many apartment complexes. When this subject comes up, the vast majority would prefer single family home developments, with some of those being of modest size so that young families can benefit. It appears the city has lost sight of the desires of the majority living here.
What changes would you make to the inclusionary housing ordinance in Longmont, if any?
If my understanding of inclusionary housing is correct, it seems in-line with my idea of using thoughtful zoning to build neighborhoods of modestly sized homes that would benefit young families.
Will you proactively promote more affordable housing at transit stops designed to get people out of their cars, including greater density at those locations?
What does smart growth mean to you, and how would you ensure that all new developments are “smart”?
Smart growth in the way I use it is building out the city in a way that makes sense to those living here, and not the way government officials think it should be. Everyone I speak to has an opinion on growth, but no one supports growth for growth’s sake. Single family home developments build communities in a way that apartment complexes don’t. Apartment complexes certainly serve a valuable role in a city, but the feeling I hear is that they are being used as a single-minded goal of achieving the 12% affordable threshold. It is highly unlikely that the city could ensure all new developments are “smart,” whatever the definition is.
What do you understand about the history of racism that has led to People of Color owning less property, and thus having less wealth than white people? What policies would you actively support to make up for years of racism in housing policy?
I’m aware of our city’s history. If someone can show me current policies and/or ordinances that have the perverse effect of dissuading any person from living here, I would work to amend, remove, repeal, etc such policy. I have asked this specific question to different groups and no one can point to anything specific.
Do you think neighborhood opposition should be able to derail development projects that are consistent with the pre-approved goals and values of the City? Please explain.
Absolutely, especially when it involves the county colluding with the city to terminate perpetual conservation easements. The “city” is the people, so the people comprise the values of the city. Just because Council establishes a goal doesn’t mean existing residents have to suffer merely because the “goal” must be pursued.
Do you see a role for the City in limiting vacation rentals and investor-owned property as a way of keeping housing costs down? Please explain.
Possibly, but I’m very wary of limiting what an individual can do with their property. I would not support policy goals to limit short term rentals merely to keep housing costs down.
Would you support lifting the state statute banning rent control. ____yes ____no. Explain.
No! Rent control is a disastrous policy. There isn’t an economist in this country that thinks rent control is worthwhile. Every college microeconomics textbook clearly explains why rent control is a horrible idea. One unintended consequence is it encourages otherwise latent bigotry and racism.
Is there a role for local government in enforcing Colorado’s warranty of habitability laws? ____yes ____no. Explain.
I don’t think so. How would it work if Longmont took this on? Would it fall into Code Enforcement’s lap? During this campaign the little I’ve been exposed to issues surrounding Code Enforcement, I’d say they have enough on their plate. Plus it would assuredly require additional training, so valuable time and treasure that is always in short supply.
FACTS ABOUT HOUSING IN BOULDER COUNTY
About ¼ of renters in Boulder County spend at least half of their income in rent.
In some County Departments, surveys found that 70% of employees commute from outside the County. Commuting into the county for work is highest for lower income workers. The last ten years of available data show we have created 3.5 jobs for every one unit of housing.
Longmont Housing Questionnaire – October 2022
Would you support changing height restrictions to create more affordable housing? ____yes ____no. Explain.
I’m not a fan of changing ground rules once established. Not that I’m completely unwilling to do so, but it would have to be done with the overwhelming majority of affected residents. If the only reason is to pursue affordable housing, it is unlikely I would be supportive.
Would you support a program to create deed restricted accessory dwelling units?
___ yes ___ no
Probably not, but it might be suitable in limited areas of the city.
If yes, what would you do to make this happen in our community? If no, why?
Because it changes the long established “rules” of a neighborhood that every owner understood to be perpetual when purchasing a property.
Would you support changing single-family zoning to allow for more homes? ____ yes ____no.
What commitment would you make to ensuring this happens, and in what time frame?
Would you support procurement policies in housing that create a preference system for minority and disadvantaged businesses? _____ yes ____no.
No. I oppose any policy or program that awards or withholds government largesse, in any form, based on immutable characteristics of the person.
Would you take a leadership role on this? __yes __ no
Should our city create an eviction legal defense program like the one in place in Boulder? ____ yes _____no
If not, what other means do you see for addressing the needs for supporting renters in our community?
We have civil solutions available now that work well enough, e.g. small claims court.