Shouldn’t Boulder Legislate for Equality?
My name is Cat Walters, I am a Black woman, a mother, and a Boulder resident. It was a little over two years ago now that my family and I came to Boulder after we were thrown out of my childhood home in New Mexico.
When we first found ourselves homeless, we were at a loss for what to do; our children were then three and ten-months-old, I had lost the only family that I had ever known and we were quickly running out of options when some relatives told us that we could stay with them in Boulder County until we got back on our feet.
We were apprehensive at first, though we were homeless the situation was not ideal, we knew that going to stay with my partner’s relatives meant staying with people whose conservative beliefs and religious practices were vastly different from our own. We were determined, however, to start over and give our kids a home of their own, so we reminded ourselves it was only temporary and made the move. The living situation was difficult, tensions were sometimes high and we found it was easiest to talk as minimally as possible about our beliefs, dreams, and aspirations until we had secured a place of our own.
Before bed, we would browse Craiglist’s classifieds to see if there were people with rooms to rent that might be affordable and more comfortable, but found that it was difficult and weren’t sure why.
It wasn’t until recently when I was grocery shopping and ran into a volunteer from Bedrooms Are For People with a petition to change the legislation regarding how many unrelated people can live in a home. It made me think about the scarcity of rooms for rent when we had searched before and thought about how it might have been beneficial for our family if residents in Boulder were not restricted from equal housing opportunities.
I recalled the living situation that was our self-compromise in order to do better for ourselves and our children and what it could have been like to instead cohabitate with someone who had a common belief system and needed help making ends meet. I immediately saw how a change in legislation would help people help themselves and help others and it was not long before I had to ask myself why Boulder would WANT to restrict the rights of people.
I thought about systemic racism and the many ways that it has been implemented across the country and about how Boulder is a city that has said out front that it is diverse and inclusive, but also writes legislation that makes it increasingly difficult for the people who actually MAKE the city diverse to build lives here. Boulder’s current occupancy laws, whether on purpose or by accident, serve as an example of laws that people are told are for their well-being. The reality is: it creates an echo-chamber that forces people like me to accommodate the voices of people who are so often heard, to be able to thrive here.
Whereas, Bedrooms Are For People opens the community up for REAL equality because it ends the gate-keeping of housing through legislation that prevents so many people from moving here or even from being able to stay here when the property taxes on their childhood home become too expensive for them to afford and they do not have the ability to rent extra rooms to stay in the only place they have known all of their lives. I believe Boulder should support what Bedrooms Are For People is proposing. The current restrictive Boulder occupancy law does not account for the people who are the most vulnerable.
That is why EFAA, an organization that helped me stay housed, endorsed this proposed measure. The current law looks at figures on paper and not the human lives that are affected when they cannot attain adequate housing, which everyone should be entitled to.
They say that in Boulder ALL are welcome, but empty bedrooms that nobody can occupy are an obstacle for parents who want to keep their family housed, and flat-out ignores cultures like mine whose families extend beyond those we have a special name for.
As I said before, Boulder says that it is inclusive, but inclusivity means hearing all of the voices and perspectives in earnest. If we are for equality, shouldn’t we legislate like it?
To learn more about my story and support families like mine, visit https://bit.ly/2Z9wXQr.