Continue Economic Growth in Arvada & Support Smart Development and Diverse Housing
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The goal of this petition is to rally community support to approve several housing projects near G-Line Stations, namely Haskins Station and Sabell Subdivision. Approving such programs will provide not only housing units for our rising population, but also continue to stimulate our economy through local income, tax revenues, and job creation.
The issue of lack of housing is much larger than Arvada or Wheat Ridge. Per the Brookings Institute, during the last twenty years, Colorado experienced unprecedented political and demographic changes. Population growth exceeded the national average and the Mountain West region is home to five states that underwent some of the largest population gains between 2000 and 2010, namely Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho and Colorado. Colorado's population increased by 1 million people between 2000 and 2013 and is 60 percent larger than it was 24 years ago. Denver has seen a population growth of about 100,000 people in 7 years.
The fundamental issue is not whether our communities need new residences to get built, but rather where do we think they should get built and what kind of residences and neighborhoods will fit our lifestyles and well-being the best.
2. CURRENT SITUATION
The traditional suburban development pattern features auto-oriented, low-density housing, without convenient access to services, restaurants, and employment centers. When combined with a growing population, this development pattern leads to ever-increasing traffic congestion and increased demands on a community’s infrastructure. Due to slow rising wages, continuous price appreciation and lack of inventory, housing costs are quickly becoming overwhelming and unobtainable for an increasing share of Coloradans. Among those who are struggling are working families, service employees, seniors, veterans, disabled citizens, and at-risk populations. Educators, health-care professionals, civic employees, etc… are also not immune.
“Underlying this phenomenon of high housing costs is a relatively straightforward problem of supply and demand. As demand to live in a particular suburb or city outstrips the existing housing stock, two things can happen: more housing gets built to meet the demand, or prices get bid up to ration the existing stock.”
To make housing more obtainable, Colorado needs to build enough housing to satisfy a growing population. The Home Builders Association’ statistics associated with the greater Denver area shows that demand continues to outpace supply. This situation creates an environment with growing burdens on renters, who pay more than 30% of their income on housing. Long term, there is also a connection between jobs and housing, and one of the reasons firms relocate is the shortage of housing for their workers. When regions don’t have enough housing for the workers that businesses need, the result over time is that businesses leave.
3. WHAT WE NEED
This petition is asking the Arvada City Government leaders to approve medium density developments that are consistent with the adopted comprehensive plan. The available research demonstrates that medium density projects do not impose greater costs on local governments; do not increase traffic and parking problems; do not reduce (and may even enhance) property values; and do not inherently attract less savory residents.
It is understandable that long-time residents and established neighborhoods are concerned about the changes caused by population growth. Most of the concerns in the community are centered on density and density-related issues, which leads to a rise of various groups that mobilize to prevent the construction of enough homes to meet housing need. (NIMBY “Not In My Backyard”, CAVEs “Citizens Against Virtually Everything”, BANANAs “Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone”).
This anti-development bias can lead neighborhoods to turn into enclaves for the wealthy. Restricting smart growth initiatives and adopting a no-growth policy has the potential to morph what was once a proudly middle-class town into a financially exclusive community.
This unduly affects young people and senior citizens who are most in need of the multifamily and other housing options that many neighborhoods find so objectionable. When owners of traditional single-family homes oppose these options, it often excludes young people and retirees from their neighborhoods.
5. WHY FOLLOW THE COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
The role of the Comprehensive Plan is to act as a guide for decision-making about the city’s land use in order to promote public health, safety and welfare, manage growth, and ensure a continued high quality of life for residents. Creating housing diversity as a part of all new developments near transit is critical to combating gentrification and displacement and ensuring that we have diverse, sustainable communities throughout the region.
There is a large contingent of professionals and engineers working for the city for which their jobs are to guarantee that growth is done in a smart way, one that ensures infrastructure and other services are ready to handle growth while preserving open space, health and strength of our community and even improve it.
The City Council has the ultimate say in how development is handled in Arvada. The Council approves Arvada’s Comprehensive Plan, Zoning Code and Zoning Map. That means the City Council has already established the density, whether low, medium or high, on any given piece of property in the city. The Comprehensive Plan, the Zoning Code and Zoning Map all have years of public involvement before City Council approved them.
It is important to note that in zones identified as medium density by the Comprehensive Plan, such as along the light rail, the City Council has implied that the property owner has the ability to build at medium density. City Council decisions for developments should involve the specific details of the site plan for the development, which should include items such as setbacks, landscaping and other requirements established in the Land Development Code. However, those decisions should not involve density; the city council already identified the allowed density when it approved the Comprehensive Plan in 2014.
6. REASONS TO SUPPORT PLANNED DEVELOPMENTS
Why is building residential units near transit so important? For many people, it means being able to afford quality housing while limiting transportation costs, getting from home to work, getting access to shopping and services for those that cannot drive, along with the benefits that come from responsible development, described below.
Housing Costs and Public Investments
Increased infrastructure investments, like the new RTD transit service along Ridge Road, make existing neighborhoods more expensive. Not allowing proper residential developments, in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan, exacerbate the situation, which can lead to forced displacement. From a long term investment standpoint, to pay off, transit investments need to meet a minimum density threshold.
Impact of Infrastructure
By their very nature, longer sewer lines and sprawling utility (water, gas, and electric) supply systems are more costly; traditional development patterns also dictate expensive road construction. In addition, local governments must provide fire and police protection (as well as other services) over a larger area. By contrast, compact development benefits from economies of scale and geographic scope. Higher density developments are more fiscally prudent than traditional suburban sprawl.
Increase in congestion seems self-evident, but only by comparing to the status quo (i.e., no development). The proper comparison is to the impact on congestion of an equal number of new single-family units. On average, residents of medium to high density projects own one car per household whereas traditional single-family households have two cars.
Denying housing near transit requires people to have longer commutes, which increase pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Vehicles are the #1 source of GHG pollution in Colorado. The fact is that families living in walkable communities near jobs and transit have a carbon footprint that is approximately half that of families living in less dense areas.
Less Time with Family and Friends
Longer commutes are associated with decreased happiness and reduced overall health. One Harvard sociologist found that, “Every ten minutes of commuting results in ten percent fewer social connections. Commuting is connected to social isolation, which causes unhappiness.”
Demographic shifts, housing pricing, age structure and composition of the new households are tilting demand further in the direction of higher density, mixed-use, sustainable communities.
We have to speak up; please vote, participate actively by attending meetings with your city council. Specifically, we advocate for the City Council to permit denser housing near transit. The Comprehensive Plan is the result of a robust planning process, with numerous opportunities for public involvement, and was formally adopted by appointed and elected officials in 2014. Implementing this long-term vision is one strategy for mitigating the rising housing costs. Please help encourage elected officials to pass smart initiatives to promote growth and vibrancy in a thoughtful way. Start by voicing your opinion here!
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