Thistle builds mixed-income housing at base of foothills

BOULDER — In the shadow of the sloping foothills towering to the west and just a short walk from the burgeoning retail center a block to the east, groundbreaking is under way on one of the newest housing developments in North Boulder.

The 18-home development, called 1000 Rosewood LLC, will include 16 single-family homes and one duplex. The development is a partnership between Allison Management LLC and the Thistle Communities, with nine of the homes available at market value and nine offered through the city of Boulder’s permanently affordable home ownership program.

“The goal is to develop affordable homes in Boulder … with a focus on mixed-income communities for homeowners,´ said Andy Allison, principal at Allison Management. Boulder-based Allison management began 10 years ago, Allison said, developing a variety of housing, including for-sale projects and apartments.

All the homes have three or more bedrooms and range from 1,200 to 1,800 square feet, Allison said, with market-rate homes being built by Porchfront Homes priced from $400,000 to $570,000. The first four market-rate homes in 1000 Rosewood were listed in early February. Some homes should be finished by April, Allison said, with staggered building completion.

“We expect it will be 100 percent built-out in July,” Allison said.

Allison partnered successfully on previous projects with Thistle Communities, including Yarmouth in North Boulder.

“It’s a public-private partnership that brings expertise and financing together,´ said Mary Duvall, chief executive of Thistle Communities. A nonprofit real estate development company, Thistle has been in business for 25 years. The company helps working families stay in Boulder through the development of affordable housing across a variety of income levels, from rentals to full home ownership. The 1000 Rosewood partnership developed after the previous property owner wanted to sell the property, and Thistle took the property through the annexation process with the city of Boulder.

Boulder’s inclusionary housing ordinance requires all developers to provide 20 percent affordable housing in new developments or pay cash-in-lieu of the affordable housing, said Bonnie Logan, homeownership program manager for the city of Boulder’s division of housing. During an annexation process developers must offer additional community benefit, which came in the form of a 50-50 split between market-rate and permanently affordable housing in the 1000 Rosewood subdivision.

The city’s permanently affordable homeownership program targets people working in Boulder with an income totaling more than 60 percent of the city’s annual median income. For the Rosewood development, applicants needed an income from 79 percent to 109 percent of the Boulder average, or $66,950 to $92,300, Logan said.

“Rosewood was a very popular project,” Logan said, with more buyers applying for the permanently affordable houses than were available. A lottery decided which of the qualified applicants bought the homes. The permanently affordable homes sold for $179,000 to $250,000 and homeowners’ association fees of $44 per month, Logan said. The average home price in Boulder for the third quarter of 2012 was $382,100, according to the National Association of Realtors’ median sales price index for single-family homes in metropolitan areas.

Appreciation on the homes cap at 3.5 percent each year to keep them affordable for future buyers who will also need to meet income and work requirements similar to the current buyers, Logan said. It’s a program that keeps families in the city.

“I think the city recognizes the benefit of having an economically diverse community,” Logan said, and keeping families in town that would otherwise be priced out of the Boulder housing market provides environmental benefit through shorter commuting.

That’s one benefit Laurel Mulholland sees. She and her family bought a four-bedroom, permanently affordable home in the 1000 Rosewood development through the city’s program. They currently rent in Gunbarrel.

“We realized it was too hard carting the kids back and forth,” Mulholland said, “and when this development happened we were so psyched,” Mulholland said.

She and her husband previously owned a townhome through the city’s affordable-housing program, but outgrew it. Mulholland works as a psychotherapist in downtown Boulder and her husband is a nurse at Boulder Community Hospital. With three children, buying a large enough market-rate home in Boulder was out of the question, and being priced out of their community hit hard, she said.

Located just west of Broadway, the development offers access to terrific natural amenities, Allison said, with Wonderland Lake Trailhead nearby, hiking trails pressed against the foothills within sight, expansive community gardens across the street, a warren of bike paths connected to other areas, easy access to public transportation and plenty of dining and retail options nearby, such as Amante Coffee and Boulder Cycle Sport.

It’s also steps from Shining Mountain Waldorf School, where Mulholland’s children attend.

Committed to being a one-car family, the new Rosewood home will allow the Mulhollands less time commuting and more time living and contributing to their community.

“Being close to Boulder, we can successfully uphold our values,” she said, “and meet culturally where our values are.”

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