Is Parker a community with a negative bias against apartment residents?
You might think so if you listened to either of the two forums for Parker Town Council candidates in October. At the chamber’s candidate forum, incumbent Cheryl Poage expressed opposition to more apartments in Downtown Parker.
“If (the developments) were condominiums, that would be great. People are invested in the community then,” Poage said. “People in apartments come and go, come and go,” she said, adding that “a few live here for a long time.”
While that might get some heads nodding in agreement, is it a mindset in sync with Parker’s growth trends?
Most of us have lived in rented housing at some time in our lives. Whether you rented a residence hall room or an apartment in college, brought your first child home to a rental as a young parent, or needed a temporary place after the end of a relationship – a large number of Americans are writing monthly rent checks.
In 2019, about 36% of American households were rented – or about 44 million, according to Pew Research.
Yet, for many, the image of apartment dwellers is persistently and historically negative. We rent by necessity, says conventional wisdom, whereas owning a home is aspirational. A traditional nuclear family in a single-family detached home fits Parker’s popular hometown image more than any combination of humans in a rented apartment.
However, with a Denver one-bedroom apartment going for around $2,000 per month, many renters are paying more than some are paying for their mortgage, and the image of a renter is changing. That means big business for developers.
Attainable housing for moderate-income professionals (think: nurses, teachers, and first responders) is already a top issue for the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee as larger employers push for closer-in housing to retain employees.
That foreshadows a real change for Parker’s north side. The new Trader Joe’s and the proposed Whole Foods are in proximity of existing and anticipated multi-family housing. Census data suggests Parker’s current rentable inventory is between 5,000-5,500. That number will likely at least double in the next decade.
“Cottonhood” will soon become “Cottonboom,” and that means unavoidable economic and political changes.
While research still shows that owners vote and engage more than renters, it cannot be ignored that Parker’s renters are real people, real consumers, and real voters. You might see that as regrettable change, or as an economic opportunity.
“Many people in apartments are just as invested and care about our town as homeowners,” said newly elected Town Councilmember Brandi Wilks, a local real estate agent. Wilks says she is very aware of the impact of the growing population of renters. With 5,000-10,000 renter votes up for grabs in the coming decade, it’s an awareness with potential upside.
“Renters choose to live in Parker,” she said. “They shop, work, and play here, and we need to make sure they feel just as welcome and appreciated.”
Wilks edged out Poage by a total of 1,227 for a seat on the Town Council.
T.J. Sullivan is the President & CEO of the Parker Chamber of Commerce. Find him on Instagram at @parkerchamberCEO.