Boulder just set the second highest affordable housing fee in the country

The slow-growth majority on the Boulder City Council on Tuesday reversed a significant move made by the previous council, voting to increase by 150 percent the per-square-foot fee that commercial developers must pay into the city affordable housing fund.

That fee, set at $12 just 16 months ago, will be raised to $30, the council decided in a 6-3 vote.

Affordable housing linkage fees are onetime payments commercial developers must give cities in order to offset the impact of their new construction — and the jobs that construction brings — on the resulting demand for affordable housing in that city.

Most cities do not have these fees. They are seen mostly in affluent communities on the coasts, and are used at higher levels in Bay Area cities with housing crises, such as Mountain View and Palo Alto, Calif.

Palo Alto’s fee is $35, which is the country’s highest. At $30, Boulder’s fee will fall just shy of that, but in effect it will be vastly steeper than the fee in Palo Alto, because land there is so much more expensive.

Denver’s affordable-housing linkage fees range from 60 cents per square foot for single-family and duplex construction and $1.60 for apartments, to $1.70 for hotel, office, retail and other commercial uses. Agricultural and industrial uses are assessed 40 cents per square foot.

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