Longmont mayor’s community discussion calls for ‘building differently’ to meet housing needs

It will take more than one solution to meet Longmont’s need for affordable housing.

That idea was at the forefront of conversation Saturday, as about 20 residents gathered for a community engagement conversation moderated by Mayor Joan Peck and Pro Tem Mayor Aren Rodriguez.

Residents shared their ideas for increasing the density of the city and creating more opportunities for housing in the form of a possible designated tax; living options, such as accessible housing, and finding ways to be creative in building to deal with the dwindling availability of developable land.

The conference at Longmont Fire Station 5, 617 Barberry Drive, was the second in a series of four talks the mayor is hosting to gather community input on issues important to the city. His first conversation was about homelessness in the city.

Peck started the conversation by pointing out that the city council is not responsible for the cost of housing. She said she hopes the discussion can touch on things the city can control to reduce costs. She also added that she had heard that Longmont had to “stop growing,” but she said the city’s population had grown only about 1% since 2009.

Longmont City Manager Harold Dominguez said one of the challenges with the housing issue is that developable land in Longmont has been declining since 1995. But, he said, the city is looking to create partners and to discuss development prospects with landowners. He cited the city’s work on the Costco project, which involves a private-public partnership in building the big box store and also using nine acres of land for affordable housing.

“There are goals that we have set our eyes on,” Dominguez said. “But it’s an element of growth, I want everyone to understand, because … we can’t deal with affordable and accessible housing in this community without growth. We’re going to have to be denser and we’re going to have height to get the price points you need.

The real estate industry’s definition of accessible housing is unsubsidized housing that meets the needs of homebuyers with incomes between 80 and 120 percent of the area’s median income. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, affordable housing costs buyers no more than 30% of gross income.

Longmont resident Mare Trevathan asked the mayor to talk about barriers to creating more density, such as options like secondary suites, which are a smaller living unit on the same property as a home. Trevathan said options like ADUs could potentially help fill gaps in senior housing.

Peck explained that while ADUs were historically built to care for a family member, today the most common use is for rental. The city code states that the owner must live in one of the units for the ADU or the house for rent. It keeps a neighborhood from becoming too commercial, Peck said.

Rodriguez noted that a limitation of ADUs is that many neighborhoods in Longmont are under the control of a homeowners association and likely wouldn’t allow ADUs anyway.

Longmont resident Eryc Eyl said the solution likely isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario.

“I think it will all depend on the neighborhood,” Eyl said. “There will be no one-size-fits-all solution to this. I think it’s worth really looking at where ADUs make sense.

Eyl, who lives in Old Town Longmont, said his neighborhood, for example, has “ridiculously deep lots” with alleyways.

“It’s prime real estate for ADUs that could actually create density and make transit more logical and not disrupt the character of the neighborhood,” Eyl said.

Eric Wallace, owner of Left Hand Brewing Co., said the city has a “supply and demand imbalance” and scarcity is driving up costs.

Wallace, who is also part of the accessible housing advocacy group Prosper Longmont, said her adult children could not afford to live in Longmont without support.

“We are in crisis,” Wallace said. “We have to build differently. We cannot continue to build large single-family homes. We have to make townhouses. We have to do condos. You can’t build a house without planting a bunch of grass and a bunch of trees and bushes. We have a water problem. »

As a business owner, he said the housing issue creates employment challenges because only half of his staff live in Longmont. This creates more traffic problems when people have to move around.

The high cost of housing is also a problem for the city as an employer. Dominguez said only about 42% of city staff live in Longmont. He compared this to 20 years ago, when 80% of staff were local residents.

Wendell Pickett, a local developer and Longmont resident, suggested the city create a general voter-approved tax that would allow a pool of funding for housing. He called this step “essential” for the growth of accessible housing, in addition to “fixing the code”.

“Is the city preparing? Mayor, are you ready to present it to the voters and create a stable and reliable revenue stream to feed these sources of funds so that they can be bonded? said Picket.

Peck said that’s something city leaders are considering.

“We were talking about having an accessible housing fund, as well as our affordable housing fund. It could also be part of our quality of life tax incentive that we’re looking at,” Peck said, later adding, “We’re trying to put everything we need under a tax incentive so we can use those dollars for bail. or whatever. .”

It’s a question Peck said voters won’t see until next year, if she does go to the polls.

The next Longmont Mayor’s Meetup is scheduled for 9-10 a.m. on September 10. The subject will be announced later.