Expanding Affordable Housing Options

The Inclusionary Housing (IH) program requires all new residential developments to contribute 25% of the total units, or the equivalent, as permanently affordable housing.

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On Nov. 7, 2023, City Council approved an update to the IH program with updates to Chapter 9-13 “Inclusionary Housing,” Section 9-2-14, “Site Review”, and three definitions in Section 9-16-1, “General Definitions,” B.R.C. 1981. These updates are effective Jan. 30, 2024.

Because remaining land appropriate for residential development within Boulder is limited, it is essential that a reasonable proportion of such land be developed into housing units affordable to very low-, low-, moderate and middle-income residents and working people. This is particularly true because of the tendency, in the absence of interventions, for expensive housing to be developed within the city, which both reduces opportunities for more affordable housing and contributes to a general rise in prices for all housing in the community, thus exacerbating the scarcity of affordable housing within the city.

2024 Updates

This page outlines new program requirements effective Jan. 30, 2024, including an updated Unit and Cash-in-Lieu Calculator. The updated Inclusionary Housing Administrative Regulations will also be posted as soon as possible.

Developments with an approved site review, use review, form-based code review, technical document review, or building permit may be allowed to develop according to either a) the IH requirements in place when the review was approved or b) the requirements of the newly adopted Ordinance.

Options for meeting the 25% requirement include providing the permanently affordable units on-site, dedicating off-site newly constructed or existing units as permanently affordable, dedicating vacant land for affordable unit development, or making a cash contribution to the Affordable Housing Fund in lieu providing affordable units (cash-in-lieu).

The requirements of Inclusionary Housing (IH) can be found in Chapter 9-13, of the Boulder Revised Code (B.R.C.) 1981. The Inclusionary Housing Administrative Regulations are adopted by the City Manager and used to implement the program.

Inclusionary Housing (IH) is a regulatory requirement that all new residential development provide 25% of the total dwelling units as affordable housing or contribute to affordable housing by alternate means like a cash-in-lieu contribution or land dedication.

For rental projects, of the 25% provided, 80% of the homes should be affordable to households earning no more than 60% of the area median income (AMI, the median income for the Denver metropolitan statistical area, as determined annually by HUD). The remaining 20% of the required affordable rental units should be affordable to households earning no more than 50% of the area median income. For-sale affordable units should have the price set to what is affordable to households earning 100% of the AMI, except for single family or townhome units that have the price set to what is affordable to households earning 120% of the AMI. Note, income limits for for-sale affordable units are set at a higher level than the price.

Regardless of size, all developments within the city that add housing units are subject to the requirements of inclusionary housing. The means for satisfying the inclusionary requirement must be approved by city staff prior to application for a residential building permit.

Developers are encouraged to meet with staff well in advance of review or permit application to determine how the IH requirements will be met in order avoid delays. For-sale affordable units that are constructed by a developer and sold, with city assistance, to an approved buyer. Rental affordable units can be owned either by the developer or subsequent owner, or a housing authority or similar nonprofit agency. A deed restricting covenant for each permanently affordable unit must be signed and recorded prior to application for a residential building permit. In most cases, the city never owns the affordable units.

Developments may provide any number of the required affordable units on-site, with the remainder of the requirement met through the other available options, including a cash-in-lieu contribution, provision of the affordable units off-site, dedicating vacant land, or by any combination of these options. The code contains an incentive for the provision of on-site for-sale affordable housing whereby the remaining cash-in-lieu can be reduced by 50% when 50% or more of the required for-sale affordable units are provided on-site.

Affordable housing obtained through city programs is deed restricted as permanently affordable. This means a given apartment or home has an ongoing restriction designed to keep it affordable in perpetuity to lower income households. The exact terms of the resale restriction are contained in a deed restricting covenant that is recorded in the county assessor office against each property.

Maximum allowable sales prices for the affordable housing units are calculated on a quarterly basis to consider mortgage interest rate changes and are established when the affordable covenant is signed. A Pricing sheet can be found in the 'Related Documents' section below. For information on how the maximum allowable sales prices for new affordable homes are determined, review the Sales Price Calculation Methodology. Please note that these are the maximum allowable sales prices and not a guaranteed minimum price. Depending upon the market and desirability of a given permanently affordable unit, prices may need to be adjusted downward to successfully complete a sale.

Rents for permanently affordable units are determined annually and can be found in the Affordable Rent Chart. Affordable rents include the total rent paid by the tenant including any non-optional fees and the established monthly utility allowance. City of Boulder maximum rents are grounded in the published CHFA maximum rents and reflect the Boulder market. The city maintains the discretion to amend maximum rents or substitute an alternative index.

All affordable units must meet the Livability Standards for Permanently Affordable Housing. This includes standards such as linear feet of cabinetry, minimum room sizes, amount of storage and closets and appliance warranties.

The IH requirement is a proportional determination of unit type, number of bedrooms and unit size to the market units. Affordable units must be distributed throughout the development and not aggregated in one area or building.

The expectation is that the permanently affordable units will be “functionally equivalent” to market rate units. This means that if the market units include dishwashers and garbage disposals they must also be provided in the affordable units. It also means that finishes and appliances provided in the affordable units, such as kitchen cabinets, countertops, flooring, etc., do not need to be identical to what is provided in the market units. For example, market rate units could include granite countertops, while laminate countertops of reasonable quality would be acceptable for the permanently affordable units.

Permanently affordable homes are expected to be constructed as complete and livable homes. As such, upgrades should be offered in moderation and must be approved in advance by the city. Upgrades are allowed in for-sale homes only and include items which would be more costly or structurally difficult to add after construction. A list of acceptable upgrades may be found in city’s policy on New Construction Pre-purchase Upgrades.

Developments may satisfy some or all the inclusionary requirements with a cash-in-lieu (CIL) contribution.

Cash-in-lieu amounts are assessed by the total residential square footage in a development. Cash-in-lieu rates scales with development size and are adjusted annually on January 1st. Refer to the Unit & Cash-in-Lieu Calculator tool available on this page.

The following definitions may be found in Section 9-16-1, “General Definitions,” B.R.C. 1981 and should be used to determine the “residential square footage” of a residential development:

Floor area for attached dwelling unitsmeans the total square footage of all levels measured to the outside surface of the exterior framing, to the centerline of demising walls between units, and to the outside surface of the exterior walls if there is no exterior framing which includes stairways, storage, and mechanical rooms, internal to the unit, but excluding garages.

Floor area for townhouses and attached small unitsmeans the total habitable square footage of all levels measured to the outside surface of the exterior framing, to the centerline of demising walls between units, and the outside surface of the exterior walls if there is no exterior framing, which includes stairways, storage, and mechanical rooms, internal to the unit, but excluding garages.

Floor area for detached single-family dwelling units means the total habitable square footage of all levels measured to the outside surface of the exterior framing, or to the outside surface of the exterior walls if there is no exterior framing or portions thereof, which includes stairways, storage, and mechanical rooms internal to the structure, but excluding garages.

This option is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Dedicated land must have residential zoning and meet a number of other land use criteria which can be found in Section 9-13-10(a)(3), “Land Dedication,” B.R.C. 1981. Refer to the Land Dedication Review and Approval Process summary document for more information.

An owner may choose to provide the required affordable housing at a separate location. Existing or newly constructed homes may be proposed to be deed restricted as permanently affordable to satisfy the IH requirement. A number of processes and other requirements apply, including location approval, concurrency of construction, providing a financial guarantee, and housing inspections. The first step in the process is to have a proposed off-site location approved by submitting a Pre-Application Review form to the planning department. Refer to the Off-site Process and Timelines for Developers document for more details. Details about the off-site option can be found in Section 9-13-10(a)(2), “Provision of Affordable Units Off-site,” B.R.C. 1981.

An administrative level Affordable Housing Design Review is applicable to any affordable housing provided off- or on-site with greater than 40 units that does not complete a site review, use review, or form-based code review. Refer to Section 4.0 of the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance Administrative Regulations for more information.

In order to ensure fair access to permanently affordable homeownership opportunities, the city requires all affordable home sales to comply with a set of fair marketing procedures. These may be found in the Marketing Procedures for Developers.