By Eric Wallace, founder and president of Left Hand Brewing, Co-Chair Prosper Longmont
I began my remarks at last week’s City Council meeting with the words, “I come in peace.” I closed with “We’re here to help.”
I was addressing what is a very real crisis in attainable for-purchase workforce housing in our community. Housing costs now exceed most of our workers’ ability to buy homes. Families earning between 80% and 120% of annual median income should be able to afford a home.
Coming up with solutions and taking actions necessary to attain the goal of more for-purchase homes and to accelerate the approval of housing to meet the demand in our community will not be easy. It will take open communication among numerous community partners and an authentic desire to work together to find a way forward (alignment). After the November 30th City Council meeting, I am feeling encouraged. Council listened. We were heard. I am encouraged that the Council unanimously directed city staff to establish a Task Force that will include members from the private and nonprofit sectors. The Task Force’s job will be to quantify the attainable housing for-purchase gap and to bring back innovative ideas and suggestions for consideration and implementation.
Other community leaders at the meeting — Lonnie Cramer from Longs Peak Hospital, Joni Lynch from Our Center, and John Creighton from High Plains Bank to name a few — brought their perspectives and told stories that boldly illustrated just how dire the situation in our community is. Stories of losing prospective and highly qualified employees and stories of team members forced to live in other communities because it’s too expensive to live in Longmont…and stories of businesses, families, and individuals who love this community, who want to live and work in this community but simply can’t afford to.
It’s important to note that a great deal of good visioning work has already been done to encourage the increased density of housing and redevelopment. Increased density lowers cost. Council has already acted to approve two complementary strategic plans that specifically call out strategies to address our housing crisis, Envision Longmont, and Advance Longmont 2.0.
Envision Longmont strategies 1.2, 1.6, 1.10, 1.20, 3.5, 3.6, 3.7, and 6.2 are all strategies designed to address our housing challenges. Council’s action was also a call for accountability of city staff to implement those strategies.
Advance Longmont 2.0 includes within its placemaking strategy the priority to “Ensure residential affordability for current and future residents.”
The City Council’s own Work Plan Goal B1 is to “Have a diverse housing stock with higher densities, access to high-quality public transportation, food, and jobs.”
In other words, the City Council, city staff, and community partners have done the groundwork to identify key areas of focus for our city.
So now begins the real work. What is needed, as local business owner and family man Joe Thompson said in his remarks, is a fresh perspective and outside-the-box thinking.
I hope that those people asked to be on the Task Force take local marketing executive Hermine Ngnomire’s words to heart: the solution doesn’t need to be complex, in fact, it can be very simple. But it needs to be done. The threat is real: we don’t want people to leave this community because they can’t afford to stay.
I am thrilled that the Council is taking this step forward for the betterment of our community and our collective future. It’s time to make some real and lasting change. We look forward to working with our partners, city leaders, city staff, and community members to assist the new Task Force in holding ourselves responsible for implementing our attainable housing goals in a timely manner before we lose additional businesses, community members, workers, and our economic base to other communities in the region.