photo of Matthew Duff on bike with two of his childrenHow did you come to live here in Littleton?

I moved to first moved to Littleton in 2001 when I graduated high school. This is my third time living in Littleton, but we are here for the long haul this time. Littleton has such a great mix of nature trails, proximity to Denver, and an old Main Street style development that creates a great space to live. We love it here. We have kids in Heritage High School, Euclid Middle School, and Runyon Elementary.

Tell us about your home building experience and what you learned from it

This could be a really long conversation. But to keep it brief, we wanted to build the most energy efficient home we could. I had gone down a rabbit hole of Youtube videos on how we miss so much comfort and less reliance on energy needs by building a standard, minimum code home. We ended up hiring an energy consultant and an architect to help us build our current home trying to optimize the free energy from the sun as much as possible and making a comfortable place for our family to live.

We ended up building our house to the Passive House standard out of Germany. This standard requires things like orienting the house southward to take advantage of the free energy of the sun in the winter, having triple pained windows, and having an airtight home. Our walls are about 14 inches thick and are around R60 or something like that. Our roof is around R80, if I remember correctly.

We learned during the build process that with some modifications to how a home is built even Colorado’s harsh winters can be lived in with comfort if we build according to the best practices in building science. We also learned that building a home during a pandemic is very expensive!

Share with us your vision of what Littleton should be, in terms of how we build homes here

Probably that the top of what I would love to see is for us to embrace multi-family homes more. We built a single family home because that is what is allowed by code when we built on our lot. But there are few things that can reduce energy costs like sharing a wall with another house. I also believe we should incentivize building homes that exceed the minimum building code. Almost all tax benefits of green building come from retrofitting a house, not from building the house correctly from the start.

I believe we should build many more multi-family and mixed use developments along the four primary corridors of Littleton: Littleton Blvd, Santa Fe, Mineral, and Broadway (we live off Broadway). We can build a multi-modal city that fosters less car dependency while also making a fantastic place to work, play, and live. Littleton’s roots are a town with greater density (think Main Street) and a trolley system for transportation. The city has great bones in comparison to towns like Highlands Ranch or newer developments.

I would love to see Littleton define a vision of what “great” city building looks like, and then incentivize developers and individual home owners to help make that vision a reality. We so often focus on “what is the worst thing you are allowed to build” instead of asking what we want to see built if we were building the best city we could build.

What’s your philosophy about wanting things to “stay the same” and “keep Littleton little”?

I agree with many sentiments about wanting to keep Littleton great. Littleton is a fantastic city and we should keep many of the things that people love. I love having a downtown in Littleton, public transit options, an city with public trails that bring community together. I want a city that is a great place for small businesses to start and grow. These are all great parts of living here. We should focus on maintaining that.

But it is not possible for a city to not change. As an example, if a city decides they don’t want to get “big” they often block new developments from coming in and double down on single-family zoning. It’s a good idea (depending on your goals) in theory, but in practice the consequence of that is skyrocketing prices because of artificially limited supply of homes. Then the city becomes a city only for the wealthy. California has shown the folly of this approach in towns up and down their state. It has become unaffordable for everyone except the exceptionally wealthy.

I just invested a lot of money in living in Littleton. I care deeply about our city. But I see us going down a path where only the wealthy can live here. I want Littleton to have a diverse housing supply so people across the lifetime spectrum of situations can live here: single people who are renting or owning, young families, professionals, and our older neighbors who need better amenities as they age and lose their ability to drive. We need to create a Littleton that serves people across the spectrum. Many cities across the world have shown that if you design a city for the most vulnerable in our society, people like small children, those with disabilities, or the elderly, that it often creates an incredible, vibrant city for everyone.

Change will happen. There are no laws that we can put in place that will keep things the same as they are now, because there are so many variables moving as time progresses. We need to create a city that provides more people with the opportunity to live in Littleton, as the population of the front range expands. We can either infill our existing cities, which makes the most sense fiscally as well as environmentally, or we can force further sprawl out into our undeveloped edges of our city. That is damaging to our pocket books and our environment. We can embrace infill projects and reap the rewards in a more vibrant, walkable city while also improving our city’s finances.