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How Boulder Is Working to Make Housing Affordable

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.

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.

Median Income and Home Values in Boulder County

From 1996 to 2019, the average single-family home from be worth four times as the average family earned in Boulder County to seven times as much. Incomes have not kept pace with home values.

Setting a new affordable housing goal

This year, the city set a new goal 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, whose family was able to move into Boulder’s Palo Park community. The community offers one-, two- and three-bedroom affordable apartments and townhomes.


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.   

Number of Affordable Properties in Boulder

The number of permanently affordable homes in Boulder increased from 1,000 in 1991 to  3, 2019.

Setting a high bar

Here are some of the projects underway and designed to help create and preserve housing options to meet the diverse needs of the community. 


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. 

The project is part of Boulder Junction (a 160-acre redevelopment at the northeast corner of 30th Street and Pearl Parkway area), which is transforming into a mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented neighborhood with regional transit connections and public spaces that will benefit the entire community.

Ponderosa Community Stabilization

The Ponderosa Mobile Home Park is a diverse, 68-home, primarily homeowner community. In 2017, the city purchased Ponderosa. Guided by resident input, the plan pro-poses new infrastructure and affordable home replacement options. The site plan allows for phased introduction of new housing over time, enabling residents to remain in existing mobile homes.

The City fo Boulder annexed Ponderosa Mobile Home Park in October 2019.

Palo Park

Opened in 2018, Palo Park is a 3.2-acre community in north Boulder with 35 affordable apartments and nine townhomes. The nine additional townhomes built by Flatirons Habitat for Humanity are currently under construction.

Palo Park was carefully designed with an eye towards sustainability and the built environment – these homes are highly energy-efficient and the community offers a community center, playground, community garden, and access to surrounding trails and open space. In addition, accessible and efficient transportation options for working families was prioritized; the neighborhood boasts an electric car charger, covered bike parking, and the community is part of the Neighborhood EcoPass Program

Boulder is 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  [email protected]  or call 303-441-3157, option 2, for questions or assistance.