Ph.D. candidate Shae Frydenlund interviewing Kimbark Apt resident. 

One of the voices rarely heard in Boulder’s affordable housing discussions is that of the people living in affordable homes. Thistle decided to listen.

Since 2015, Thistle has been collaborating with researchers at the University of Colorado on the Boulder Affordable Housing Research Initiative (BAHRI) to learn more about what low-income working families face on a daily basis.

A team of doctoral candidates from the CU Geography Department, under the guidance of Associate Professor Jennifer Fluri, Ph.D., surveyed and interviewed Thistle rental residents and Thistle’s Community Land Trust homeowners regarding their attitudes, views and experience living in affordable homes. The results were both positive and thought-provoking.

Affordable Housing Discussions

Rental residents were positive about living in affordable housing, with many saying without affordable options, they would not be able to live in Boulder. Many of the respondents said they were planning to stay long term due in part to access to transportation and open space, proximity to work, and the sense of community they felt in their neighborhood. Respondents praised Thistle for the way it takes care of the properties, and for providing opportunities to live in diverse and inclusive communities.

One theme we heard from renters is the desire to change the negative connotations held by the general public about people who live in affordable homes. The report states that Thistle residents want their Boulder neighbors to understand that affordable housing residents live in safe, clean, quiet, community-oriented housing, and are not dangerous, criminal, or lazy.

This concern about stereotyping was echoed in the Community Land Trust homeowners survey published in early 2018. Homeowners enjoy their homes and appreciate the opportunity to live in Boulder County, but the researchers found that “respondents seek to challenge existing stigmatization and stereotypes about people who live in affordable housing in Boulder.”

It’s important for all of Boulder to understand that access to affordable housing is the pathway for working families to stay together and regain stability despite circumstances, such as work-related injuries, medical disability or situations of domestic violence, result in poverty or homelessness.

The BAHRI team sees its work as having the potential to affect positive change while serving Thistle and the broader Boulder community by shedding light on who lives in affordable housing and why.

Thistle and BAHRI have enjoyed partnering over the past four years. We look forward to generating additional information that will inform the affordable housing discussion.