Housing costs in Boulder County are soaring! In 2016, Colorado’s 1.9% population growth was the second-highest in the U.S., with little sign of slowing down.

Deed Restricted Affordable homes
Pictured is Rosewood, a neighborhood of 18 homes in North Boulder — eight of them affordable — developed by Thistle and Allison Management

People are coming to Colorado and to Boulder County for jobs in high-tech companies, start-ups, government labs, outdoor industry businesses, the legal marijuana trade, and higher education.

As of November 2017, rents for one-bedroom apartments in Boulder averaged $1,798 a month (an 18.3% increase from a year earlier) and two-bedroom apartment rents averaged $2,109 (16.31% more than a year earlier). For housing to be considered affordable at these rents, a single person in a one-bedroom apartment would have to earn $54,000 per year, a rate above what many jobs in retail, the service sector or teaching are paying.

Home buying is no easier. As of late 2017, the median price of homes for sale in Boulder was $795,000.

It’s part of a nationwide trend: in areas where jobs are available but housing is scarce, home rental and purchase prices are going up, up, up.

Creating new housing is particularly tough in Boulder County due to various governmental constraints that include conservation of open space, building height limits and zoning restrictions.

Thistle plays a significant role in addressing this housing crunch, offering over 900 high-quality, permanently affordable rental and ownership homes in locations around the county.


People who live in affordable housing are the people you see every day: your hairdresser, doctor’s assistant, restaurant waiter, library worker or your child’s schoolteacher. In 2016, the average Thistle Houworkforce housingsehold earned $26,146 (34% of the Area Median Income (AMI) for a two-person household).

As of 2017, over two-thirds of tenants in Thistle’s 651 apartments were working adults and their families. In those 651 households, 152 households or 23% have a disability; 213 households or 33% have a Section 8 voucher. Over 285 children aged 12 and younger, and 96 teens between 12 and 17 live in Thistle properties.

A Thistle resident on her job as a food demonstrator


Due to agreements with the investors in Thistle properties, we must qualify all residents as having income at or below a certain level. The maximum income for a one-person household is $$47,760, which is 60 percent of the $68,800 AMI for one person. The maximum allowable amount increases with each additional family member. More specific income restrictions vary by property and by individual unit. Please call our leasing staff at (303) 443-0007 to discuss.

  • As of early 2018, Thistle apartment rents ranged from $597 to $1,997. See our currently available listings here.
  • Other restrictions apply. Take the questionnaire to see if you qualify here.

All potential renters must fill out an application, provide $25 per for each adult applicant, and show that they are financially able to pay the stated rent. Tenants’ rent-to-income ratio must not exceed 40%.

To qualify to live in Thistle homes, very low-income households may need to apply for a Section 8 voucher, which we’ll discuss next.


Thistle is a provider of “affordable” housing. Housing is considered “affordable” by real estate people and mortgage lenders when renters or homeowners spend no more than one-third of their income on housing, leaving them enough income to pay for food, transportation, medical costs, and other expenses.

What’s called “low-income housing” is for people for whom devoting one-third of their income to housing gives them no viable options in a local housing market. For example, a person or family whose income is $1,000 per month would find no rentals available for one-third of their income ($333) in our area. These are their options:

  • Their best rental option is to apply for assistance through a federal government voucher program called Section 8 (discussed below) or in a rent-restricted apartment (these are generally managed by a local housing authority).
  • Someone hoping to buy at this income level would also have no local options (except perhaps by competing for the few homes offered through subsidized home-buying programs like Habitat for Humanity).


Section 8 is a federally funded low-income rental assistance program offered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and administered through local housing authorities.  The program serves low-income families, elderly individuals and persons living with disabilities.

Thistle does not distribute or qualify individuals for Section 8 vouchers. But these local organizations do:

    • Boulder Housing Partners
    • Boulder County Housing and Human Services
    • Longmont Housing Authority
    • Colorado Division of Housing
    • Mental Health Partners
    • Imagine
    • Colorado Coalition for the Homeless

Both Boulder and Longmont use a lottery system for assigning new Section 8 vouchers.  Everyone has to enter this lottery. WARNING: the lottery is only open for a brief period once per year.

In the City of Boulder only, preference is given to household in which a member 18 years or older currently lives or works within Boulder’s city limits. Everywhere in Boulder County, preference is given to households that are elderly (62+), to families with children, or to households containing a person with disabilities.

Potential voucher holders must submit an application and qualify. HUD only allows assistance to be paid for those members of the household who are lawfully present in the U.S.

There is a Maximum Annual Income for applicants.  There’s no minimum income requirement.

The voucher provides for a standard payment based on family size and composition.

  • Example: for a family of three, Section 8 vouchers provide assistance at the level of 50% of annual AMI, or $44,750.

The rent portion left to be paid by the resident comes out to 30% to 40% of their monthly adjusted income.

People with Section 8 vouchers have to find their own apartments, and they pay a percentage of their income towards rent. The Section 8 program pays the remainder of the rent directly to the Landlord.

Applicants still must qualify for the rental unit itself under most of the same terms as applicants without a Section 8 voucher.

Residents must sign a regular Thistle lease and pay their own security deposit.


Keeping our communities safe and crime-free is a high priority at Thistle.

In Longmont, all our properties are certified under the nationwide Crime Free Multi-Housing program. The Crime Free logo (shown here) on a building alerts renters and potential criminals that the property is part of that program. All tenants sign a “crime-free lease addendum” that provides for evictions of problem tenants. Management must complete a full background and credit check of prospective tenants, which is a standard Thistle procedure in any case. This program is working. For example, after Thistle bought 1200 Kimbark Apartments in December 2014, police calls decreased from 10 to three per month. Particular attention has gone toward keeping drug-related activity out of our communities.

In Boulder, The Police Department has established the Neighborhood Policing Area Program, whose a

Boulder police officers visit Lumine at 28th at National Night Out event of August 1, 2017

aim is to build and maintain vibrant, livable neighborhoods. Neighborhood police officers try to be in touch with as many residents and business owners as possible to introduce themselves and provide information about policing. The officers also act as the liaison between neighborhoods and city departments, assist with neighborhood events, provide education and track and follow up on problems and crimes. For more information: Boulder’s Neighborhood Policing Area program