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Guest opinion: Adam Perry: The money pit-falls of Boulder’s permanently affordable housing

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By Adam Perry

My family’s time at 3380 Folsom St. No. 113 began when my kid, Sidney, was 4. It officially ended earlier this month, almost eight years later, when the new owner signed the closing documents.

As we shut the door one last time, I said, “This place just got too small for us” and Sidney said, “No, Papa, we just got too big.”

We’ve found a larger home (a rental) with my wonderful partner — and more than one bathroom. I have lived and worked in Boulder since Sidney was a year old, and we’re trying to stay here despite the housing crisis for families who earn less than $100,000 per year combined.

There are all kinds of memories, and the little 900-square-foot home served us well, but Boulder’s “permanently affordable homeownership” program revealed itself as a money pit.

This so-called “progressive” city washed its hands of whether the home was “affordable” when my monthly homeowner’s association fees quickly ballooned from $320 per month (with zero amenities) to nearly $800 per month, and finally settled at “just” $480 per month. It should be called the “permanently affordable mortgage” program.

Understandably, the city of Boulder caps the resale price of “permanently affordable” homes. I bought the home for $145,000 and was allowed to sell it for $170,000 — although it’s worth four or five times that on Boulder’s surreal open market.

However, I ended up spending about $50,000 on HOA fees during our seven-plus years at 3380 Folsom — more than the profit I was able to make from selling the home. The city capped the value of the home, but not the cost of living in the home due to the questionable charges by the HOA, let alone the outrageous cost of selling the home.

Boulder’s City Council and housing department repeatedly said they could not help with the dire HOA problem because once you’re in the program you are just another private homeowner. Ironically, the city decreased my profit on the sale of the home substantially by mandating repairs that the buyer did not request and I could not refuse, because the home is effectively the public property of the city of Boulder.

Finally, I feel it’s important to share that in my opinion Boulder allowed an HOA company to execute legal robbery of families in the “permanently affordable” program, turning a blind eye even when the HOA forced me to pay nearly $2,000 in capricious “transfer” and “service” fees simply to switch the bill over to someone else’s name when I sold the home.

The city of Boulder — especially mayor Aaron Brockett, who met with a few 3380 Folsom residents when our HOA started spinning out of control, but did nothing to help — treats families like participants in an “affordable” public program (ostensibly in an effort to create a middle class here) until they’re actually in the program.

I do not recommend it, unless perhaps you can find a “permanently affordable” home without an HOA.

Adam Perry lives in Boulder and is a paralegal at a local veterans’ disability law firm, a drummer and a writer. 

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