Boulder ballot initiative ‘Bedrooms Are for People’ challenges current restrictive housing laws
By Abby Schirmacher. Originally published in The Bold on April 29, 2021.
"Imagine sharing a room with your friend for a variety of reasons. There’s a bunk bed set up in the bedroom and you both are comfortable with your living situation. But when your landlord visits, you take apart the bunk bed, stash it in the basement and have to claim that bedroom is an office. This is because the occupancy law in your city prohibits more than three unrelated people from living under the same roof.
This situation is a reality for residents and renters in Boulder, Colorado.
Boulder Ballot Initiative Bedrooms Are for People (BAFP) demands the city revise occupancy laws. Currently, exclusionary zoning laws forbid more than three unrelated residents from occupying a household, regardless of the size of the house.
BAFP’s solution is to allow one occupant per bedroom in any given household in Boulder. This grassroots movement is currently petitioning to add the initiative to the ballot in this year’s local election, while trying to gain support from the community in the process.
The origin of these laws are discriminatory in their nature. Since the early twentieth century, cities across the country have enacted exclusionary zoning ordinances with the intention to segregate communities. According to The Century Foundation, 'in 1916, just eight U.S. cities had zoning ordinances; by 1936, that number had grown to 1,246.' Today, exclusionary zoning is still implemented in cities across the nation.
Boulder upholding exclusionary zoning laws destroys prospects for the community to welcome diversity and foster a space for residents of all races, ages, ethnicities and economic backgrounds to thrive.
According to BAFP, the occupancy laws in Boulder are restrictive for a variety of reasons. While it is less affordable for community members to pay rent based on the current occupancy laws, the code also restricts groups who want to live with unrelated residents. This includes citizens, especially those in their 20s and 30s, who are flocking to Boulder and would prefer to live in an untraditional household.
The financial burden associated with COVID-19 is another problem. Individuals may not have the economic resources to live in their own space. Altering the occupancy laws in Boulder would allow those in financial distress to live as they please at a more affordable price. The solution is likely additional roommates.
Boulder is home to a variety of different individuals. The community is considered a haven for young people who are passionate about the outdoors and all that Colorado has to offer. However, a restrictive housing law makes the city much less affordable and equitable for those seeking a space—or a bedroom—to call their own."