If you’ve spent any time in Boulder, CO these past few years, you’ve no doubt noticed that new home construction has gotten bigger and bigger. In fact, the average size of newly (re)built homes in the area is over 5,000 square feet. The debate between maintaining the character and identity of older neighborhoods and rebuilding/replacing smaller homes with larger residences has escalated in recent months, and given our involvement as a local supplier of windows and doors, we felt it was a discussion worth contributing to.
The concerns are as much about affordability as they are about the transformation of Boulder communities. As more modern (read: larger) single-family homes are built or renovated with new additions, and subsequently sold, home prices are driven further and further up, making many neighborhoods completely unaffordable for middle income families. Apartment and/or townhome rentals are quickly becoming the only housing option left for average families who don’t want to commute from areas far outside the city.
In recent years, the Boulder City Council implemented several requirements for the (re)development of homes. These requirements did little to stop the rapid redevelopment of very large houses with even bigger price tags. Whereas the average home size in Boulder was 1,861 square feet just a few years ago, the median size of new single-family detached homes built in since 2010 was 4,400 square feet.
There are lots of ideas about how to keep prices down and population density in check, but the most current discussions revolve around the idea of subdividing properties and re-zoning residential areas for townhouse development. But, for every advocate of such plans, there are as many opponents who believe demand for larger single-family properties will continue to rise, and that the resulting gentrification will benefit local communities through positive socioeconomic change. Ultimately, there is only so much land available to develop, so maintaining a balance between the two sides is understandably difficult.
We feel that it’s really not an “all-or-nothing” issue. Limiting house size further will do nothing to drive affordable housing. Allowing development within the confines of an existing lot will add affordable housing and the resulting density will not be appreciably more than that of larger, single-family homes. Market demand and the property rights of existing homeowners should be respected, which is why SolarGlass supports an “all-of-the-above” approach to the evolving redevelopment of Boulder’s coveted neighborhoods.
*Photo courtesy of the DailyCamera Boulder News.