Welcome to Thistle Communities
Bienvenidos a las comunidades de Thistle. Para español, presione aquí.
A private, non-profit real estate company, Thistle Communities develops, manages and preserves quality, permanently affordable rental and ownership homes as well as market rate homes in Boulder County. Since our founding in 1989, we’ve created over 1,000 affordable homes.
Resident Online Auto Payments are here!!
Thistle is now accepting resident rent payments online. Click on the red button (left) to go to Rent Cafe and sign in. Residents will be able to save time and money with this convenient method. Please note: only Ledges at 29th, Lumine at 28th and Sage Court are set up as we are working with those properties to get ourselves and our residents familiar with the system. We will notify the other communities as soon as this option is available. Thanks!
How 300 and 301 will affect affordable housing
What kind of Boulder community do we envision? One that is vibrant and welcoming or one that is insular and clings to the status quo? This is the issue we are facing when considering Ballot Initiatives 300 and 301.
Thistle Communities, a non-profit real estate organization which develops, owns and manages nearly 900 affordable apartments and ownership homes, is concerned about additional costs and impediments due to more regulation. Since 2010 we have built 51 homes in Boulder in partnership with market rate developer Allison Management; 24 are permanently affordable and 27 are market rate. The cash generated from the market rate houses allowed us to do these projects with minimal public subsidy.
Unfortunately, this model of developing affordable housing is threatened. Land prices, permitting fees and the cost of construction have risen considerably, plus very few developable parcels remain in the city and competition is keen. If the initiatives pass, this type of development will become non-existent.
First, let’s consider Ballot 300 which will allow neighborhoods to vote on changes to zoning regulations if 10% of the neighbors petition the city for an election. This will create over 60 voting units and allows a single neighborhood to trump a development that has a community benefit, such as affordable housing.
One efficient method of creating more affordable housing is through annexation of new parcels to the city. Thistle went through this process at our Rosewood development in North Boulder, where 50% of the 18 homes built were permanently affordable. Annexations require a change in zoning so they would be subject to a vote under Ballot 300. If a neighborhood is allowed to veto any new annexations, the process will become even more difficult and expensive and could easily stop any new annexations.
When people think of affordable housing, adverse reactions to allowing it in their neighborhoods often follow. But if one sees the developments that Thistle has done, such as Rosewood (shown in the photo above), the appearance of the affordable and market rate is virtually identical. The difference is in the pricing which allows working families to live here and purchase homes.
At a minimum, this ballot will cause delays and added expense for new developments that have a higher component of affordable housing. At its worst, it will stop annexations and meaningful additions of new affordable housing units.
Ballot 301 ”Development Shall Pay its Own Way” is puzzling. We do not have any data that says whether growth pays its own way or not. Before voting yes to Ballot 301, shouldn’t we know what these additional costs are? Supporters say this is not difficult or expensive to figure out. If so, why not figure it out and let the voters know what the potential costs are?
The necessity of affordable housing for new workers will be one of the costs and our concern is no specific language in the ballot states the additional fees go to affordable housing. We do know that the increased costs from the ballot will increase Thistle’s expenses.
Also, because 301 is vaguely worded, litigation seems inevitable. This will put new development on hold, possibly for years, and there will be little in the way of new payments-in-lieu that fund the City’s affordable housing program. Once the litigation is over and costs are known, land prices will have increased even more and the City’s affordable housing fund will be greatly diminished.
Concerns over new development have always been a topic of discussion in Boulder; lately discussions have become more intense. Instead of coming to a solution via representative government, the issue will be decided by ballots. The conversation of what Boulder could and should look like in the future will be hamstrung by a process that involves litigation and vetoes by neighborhoods rather than consensus building within the city.
We believe that these ballots will make it more expensive and time consuming to provide affordable housing. Therefore, we urge a no vote on both.
Derrick Robinson, President, Thistle Communities
Joe Ballestrasse, Board Member, Thistle Communities
Lilly Sorenson, Board Member, Thistle Communities
Kyle Littman, Board Member, Thistle Communities
At Thistle we are moving full speed ahead with several innovative partnerships and projects. One is a collaboration with Open Arts, which brings visual art events and educational programming to the public throughout the year. On August 14th, kids of all ages enjoyed an afternoon of play and art exploration at Fairways Apartments (right). We are thrilled to announce that our next art project will be a mural at the Fairways Apartments Courtyard this fall. In partnership with Pop Culture Classroom, Open Arts will release an RFP for artists and engage the community at Fairways to determine what the subject matter of the mural will be. We thank Open Arts for this opportunity and are looking forward to it.
Another initiative which has begun to show results is our partnership with Attention Homes, a Boulder non-profit dedicated to providing services to at-risk and homeless youths for the last 40 years. We have formalized our relationship with an MOU and two of our apartments are now homes for their clients. Shown left, Angelina and Najaah are chilling after work at their apartment. They are saving for a car and their plans for the summer are "working, paying bills and being adult-like." Visit attentionhomes.org for more program information.
And, the 69-unit Lumine Apartment complex in Boulder (shown below) is fully leased! Our new residents include employees of BVSD, King Soopers and CU Boulder, managers for local businesses such as Mad Greens and Crist Mortuary, a chiropractor, a nanny and numerous self-employed. The Lumine and Ledges apartment complexes have added 130 new affordable apartments to Boulder's housing stock over the past year. Thistle and our partners are making a difference by housing Boulder's diverse workforce, so people can live where they work and work where they live.
No Margin, No Mission
What happens if you pay all your bills and have money left over? You might take a nice vacation, buy a new car or maybe some stock. You don’t call it making a profit, instead it’s more akin to investing in your life or future.
It’s the same with Thistle Communities. At the end of the year, any cash in our accounts is reinvested in the company or its properties. All organizations, for profit or non-profit, need to pay their bills to survive, and if they are managed astutely, they show a surplus of income over expenses or a profit. This “profit” (or margin) is crucial to keeping a company alive. The difference between for-profits and non-profits is where that margin goes. In a for-profit company, the margin is paid to the shareholders, the business owner or other investors. In a non-profit, the margin is retained and reinvested in the organization's mission.
Call it profit, margin or cash; any organization is happy to see more revenue than expense at the end of the year. Our goal is to have a range of community-oriented programs that allow us to earn a profit rather than depending on public and private subsidies. And that’s why at Thistle, we are fond of saying, “No Margin, No Mission.”
Responsible for seeing that the organization thrives is the all-vounteer Board of Directors. Thistle Board members use their financial, legal and non-profit consulting expertise for the benefit of the organization. In 2012-2013 Thistle Board and committee members contributed over 944 hours per year, valued at $163,000 per year. At a typical meeting, shown above, the Board formulates strategy and sets the course for the future.
Climbing the Housing Ladder
Finding a place to call home is one of the most important decisions a family makes. Whether the choice is an apartment or a single-family home, it is usually driven by finances. Thistle Communities' unique niche in Boulder County is offering individuals and families a choice in housing options that range from an affordable rental at 30 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) to market rate homes that still are the lowest price new homes in the City of Boulder. These price points are rungs on the housing ladder. Renting or buying from Thistle helps families move up the housing ladder, accumulate equity, foster stability and contribute to their community. Please take a moment and explore our rental and home ownership opportunities.
Boulder Rental Office, 5620 Arapahoe #212, Boulder, CO 80303 303.442.2293
Longmont Rental Office, 15 Third St., Longmont, CO 80501 303.651.9496
Admin Office (No Leasing Availability Information), 1845 Folsom, Boulder, CO 80302 303.443.0007