Our residents need stable, affordable housing to thrive. When households spend more than 30% of their income on housing they become housing cost burdened, often needing to choose between their mortgage, healthcare, food or educating their children. In Denver, the statistics are staggering – 92,000 people in Denver earning at or below 80% AMI (that’s a $50K annual salary) are cost-burdened, meaning that they spend more than 30% of their income putting a roof over their head. The lack of attainable housing has become a crisis, and the City of Denver has done little to actually solve the problem. If we are to be a city for every generation, it’s critical that we elevate attainable housing oversight and action to the highest level within the City of Denver and hold our leadership accountable to turn allocated funding into actual housing. As your mayor I will create a continuum of housing, providing affordable housing options for all. I will commit to:
End the attainable housing crisis in a generation, investing $1B in attainable housing over the next 10 years
In 2016 the Denver City Council approved an affordable housing fund from property tax revenue and a one-time development fee to raise $150 million over 10 years to create or preserve 6,000 affordable homes. The 2019 city budget accelerated that by including more than $50M additional over the next five years, thanks to an infusion of cannabis tax money. This is not enough. Adequate resources must be committed to end the housing crisis. We must prioritize getting housing built in the core, while also creating healthy neighborhoods that are well connected through a variety of thoughtful, transportation corridors.
Elevate the City’s oversight of attainable housing to a cabinet level position
The failure to prioritize both retention and growth of affordable housing has been profound. To remedy this, I will move housing oversight out the Office of Economic Development (OED) and establish the Office of Attainable Housing, a stand-alone agency and cabinet position reporting directly to the mayor. Why? Because housing has become an afterthought in OED, where the agency also oversees workforce development, business incentives and small business support. I will make it one of my top priorities. Housing targeted to different income levels requires different financial solutions and support and should be treated as such. The current administration’s strategy of trying to handle each of these disparate types of housing has created a muddled one-size-fits-all approach that has been ill suited to solve the housing crisis.
Buy back existing affordable units
This is the first step to stop the loss of existing affordable housing. The Right of First Refusal Ordinance, passed in 2016 by Denver City Council, gives the City of Denver the first right of refusal to buy back affordable units. They city has not exercised this once – failing to enact our only policy specifically crafted to preserve affordable housing – while these units are sold off to private developers. No longer on my watch.
Create streamlined City processes to expedite the delivery of attainable housing
The City will become a navigator and coordinator for attainable housing development, helping to make the process clearer for those wanting to move thoughtful projects forward. As Denver’s next mayor, I will:
§ Streamline policies and procedures to expedite release of the affordable housing funds, which have proven difficult to obtain under the current rules;
§ Set clear city priorities for use of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) tax credits in partnership with the Colorado Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) to maximize impact;
§ Serve as a liaison to support attainable housing developers in obtaining support with other key partners including, but are not limited to, the Denver Housing Authority (DHA) who can help with maximizing federal resources; CHFA who can help with tax credit; and the Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA) who can help with tax increment financing;
§ Identify how we can weave prioritization of attainable housing throughout other City of Denver departments and policies – in particular Community Planning and Development.
Open up City of Denver-owned assets and land for attainable housing
I will commit to creating an inventory of every piece of underutilized City-owned land where we can locate new affordable housing units. I will also work with other civic partners (CDOT, RTD, Denver Public Schools) to identify creative partnership opportunities for housing projects on their land.
Build the coalition
We can’t solve the attainable housing crisis alone. I will be a leader in building a coalition to help us solve this critical challenge for our city. I will commit to:
§ Work with our private sector companies and investors to support attainable housing development, exploring opportunities for them to invest this critical need for the city.
§ Establishing regional partnerships with our surrounding municipalities. The attainable housing crisis is impacting all of us, and it’ll be critical for us to work together to be aggressive on the issue and to leverage resources.
§ I will also work with our congressional delegation to advocate for expansion of federal tools that do work to advance attainable housing, notably Low-Income Housing Tax Credits
Incentivize innovation in attainable housing
Cities who don’t innovate will fall behind. We can be a leader in incentivizing innovation both in construction processes and in the types of creative housing opportunities we support. As your mayor I will advocate for a whole spectrum of options including non-traditional housing types (e.g. tiny homes, ADUs, modular housing) and opportunities to support models such as community land trusts that support a diversity in affordable options.