Maintaining Affordable Housing Options

Living in Boulder is expensive – especially owning a home. We all know Boulder is a great place to live, work and play, but for many, buying or renting a home in Boulder is all but impossible.

The city, however, is working hard to find solutions to maintaining diverse housing options for all people, no matter the size of their paycheck. Those efforts include making some homes permanently affordable and preserving those that already are. The city adopted a new goal this year to expand permanently affordable housing options for low- to middle-income households.

Median Income and Home Values in Boulder County (1996-2020)

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Chart showing housing prices climbing in Boulder over the past 10 years

Rising Home Prices

Like much of the United States, in Boulder, the cost of homeownership has increased faster than incomes. In 2019, the average single-family home was worth more than seven times the average family’s income in Boulder County – a gap that has widened substantially since 1996, when a single-family home was worth about four times as much as a family earned.

Slideshow: A look at some affordable homes in Boulder

Setting a New Affordable Housing Goal

The city set a new goal in 2020 to ensure that 15% of all residential development qualified as permanently affordable to low- to middle-income households by 2035. That’s a boost from the previous aspiration of 10% of all housing stock, with 1,000 of these units specifically for middle income.

Additionally, Boulder has a shared vision with the rest of the county to see more affordable homes. As part of the Boulder County Regional Housing Partnership, the city will help to contribute to a countywide goal of 12% by 2035. Housing is considered "affordable" when a household spends less than a third of their income on it. Income thresholds for eligibility for affordable homeownership programs vary by each community based on a federal calculation. For Boulder in 2019, the income range for a low-income three-person household is $0 to $61,380. A family of three with a household income up to $122,760 could potentially qualify for middle-income housing.

Making a Difference

Research shows that stable, affordable housing is crucial to the health, environment, and overall well-being of our communities. The city is working hard to find solutions to maintaining diverse housing options for all people, regardless of the size of their paycheck – like Kelly (profiled in the above video), whose family was able to move into Boulder’s Palo Park community. The community offers one-, two- and three-bedroom affordable apartments and townhomes.

Number of Affordable Properties in Boulder (1991 to 2019)

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Graph showing 7.8% of homes in Boulder are affordable as of 2019

Making Progress

The City of Boulder has come a long way since 1991, when less than 1,000 units in Boulder qualified as affordable – today, we have over 3,600.

There are approximately 46,000 homes of all types in Boulder in 2019, which includes single-family homes, townhomes, condos, cooperatives and apartments. To meet the goal of 15% affordable housing – as of today – right around 6,900 units, rental and for sale, new and preserved, would be the magic number to reach the goal. The city is a bit more than halfway to its goal, with about 7.8% of homes qualifying as affordable.

30Pearl affordable housing project rendering

This 4.5-acre site on the northeast corner of 30th and Pearl streets is being developed as a mix of affordable housing for low- to middle-income households mixed with market-rate homes, and affordable and market-rate commercial space.

We're Here to Help

For those who want to live in Boulder or are already here, there is a lot to know and learn about affordable housing. The city is available to assist those who are interested and there are several ways to get started.

Learn about different affordable homeownership programs available or view affordable rental information and resources. Email homeownership@bouldercolorado.gov or call 303-441-3157, option 2, for questions or assistance.

We are more than halfway to our goal of 15% affordable housing by 2035 -- but our work continues