Ned housing in crisis

Lynn Hirshman – Nederland

Ned housing in crisisAccording to housing activist Atashnaa Werner, there is virtually no housing that people can afford in the Peak to Peak Region. According to her, “there has been a housing crisis in Nederland for over a decade. It came to a head two years ago.” The problems: the community is aging; the economy collapsed; salaries and wages haven’t caught up.

While there has been much talk of “affordable housing,” Werner points out that “affordable” in Federal government terms, simply means “below market rate.” In Boulder County, “affordable” 1-bedroom apartments rent for $680; 2 bedrooms for $860; and 3 bedrooms for $1110. It’s worse in Nederland: 1 bedroom rentals — if they can be found at all — go for $900 to $1400; 2 bedrooms for $1000 to $1200; 3 bedrooms for $14000 to $2200.

Much “affordable” housing is built by private investors eager for government grants that require only a small percentage of the final plan be assigned to “affordable” units. Werner is much more interested in publicly funded housing that is truly affordable in our low-wage economy.

As the driving force of the Nederland Mayor’s Task Force on Housing and Human Services, last year Werner developed a presentation for the Town’s Planning Advisory Board and ultimately for the Board of Trustees. The preliminary plan calls for 16 one-story or 8 duplex units for elders; 12 townhouses of 6 duplex units for families; 8 apartment units in 2 buildings for individuals; renovation of the Beaver Creek Apartments.

The Planning Advisory Board spent a lot of time looking at these proposals, and adopted most of them. Their Housing and Action Plan involves working closely with the Boulder County Division of Housing, which, Werner states, after a major re-organization, is “excited about moving forward with Nederland on housing.”
The major difficulty in implementing these plans, aside from the ever-present problem of funding (which, Werner hopes, will be addressed by acquiring various grants), is that of finding land available for building new public and truly affordable (not “affordable”) housing. One partial solution for that, she points out, would be for Nederland to approve auxiliary housing, often called “mother-in-law houses” or “granny flats.”

These small, inexpensive units, built close to existing houses on normal-sized lots, were recently approved in Denver and even more recently in Gilpin County. The Planning Advisory Board has addressed this issue peripherally by calling for the BOT to “update Town development regulations and Zoning codes to align with the policies and objectives of this…Plan.”

The Planning Advisory Board will be finalizing its recommendations to the BOT at its meeting on October 23.