Mayor unveils housing plan



  • Mayor Hancock unveils affordable housing.
  • Rising homes prices hurt affordability, he notes.
  • Mayor calls initiative biggest in 15 years.
Housing Denver is a major initiative by Mayor Hancock and the Office of Economic Development.

Housing Denver is a major initiative by Mayor Hancock and the Office of Economic Development.

Mayor Michael B. Hancock and the Denver Office of Economic Development on Monday unveiled what they described as a “comprehensive and collaborative” five-year plan on providing affordable housing during time when home prices are setting records almost every month.

“Home prices have been improving, which is generally good news for a city’s economy, but rising costs are increasingly making housing unaffordable for too many,” Hancock said.

The goal of the plan, Housing Denver, is to harness the resources of the public and private sectors to deliver accessible housing opportunities for individuals and families of all income levels throughout Denver, according to officials.

Housing Denver – the first such plan for the city in 15 years – is a call to action to all community partners to further bolster housing affordability at all income levels from homeless to low-, moderate- and median-income households, officials said. It is coming at a time when federal resources for affordable housing are dwindling, according to the plan.

The ambitious plan was created through a two-year process of dialogue and outreach and will provide a guide for Denver’s housing policies and programs through 2019.

While not a silver bullet, the plan addresses solutions ranging from micro housing to streamlining and reducing fees for affordable housing development to preserving the existing stock of workforce housing.

“Access to safe, decent, affordable housing has never been more important in Denver,” Hancock said.

“While the city’s population growth has spiked, our housing stock is simply not keeping pace with the community’s needs,” Hancock continued.

“If we are to build a world-class city where everyone matters, we must have a housing infrastructure in which everyone who works hard and plays by the rules can find affordable housing opportunities for their families,” according to Hancock.

Improving housing throughout Denver has been a priority of the Hancock administration.

There are still pockets of low-priced homes in Denver.

There are still pockets of low-priced homes in Denver.

To further that goal, Housing Denver  is a proactive and transparent housing strategy that will strengthen partnerships with nonprofits, private sector developers and the financial community to build a balanced, inclusive housing market, according to the mayor’s office.

Because it is a broad, five-year roadmap for increasing affordable housing in Denver, there are not costs attached to the plan at this time, according to an OED official. However, “action plans” will be issued annually and those plans likely will include any costs associated with the plan.

The new strategic plan for Denver housing programs outlines eight key priorities:

  • Increase housing resources. A consistent stream of funding is needed from public and private investments, revenue from housing-related initiatives such as the Metro Mortgage Assistance program and the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance, social impact bonds and general funds. Many developers, however, have criticized the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance, saying it will backfire, making it more difficult to bring affordable housing to Denver.
  • Improve both the system and the communication of the city’s funding process to simplify, clarify and work more transparently with the housing development community, primarily nonprofits.
  • Ensure regulatory relief and better efficiency benefits for the entities developing affordable housing, including accelerated processing, lower fees and/or reducing development charges on utilities.
  • Increase critical needs and homeless housing through more wrap-around supportive services, exploring micro-unit development and removing barriers to housing those who were formerly incarcerated.
  • Promote affordable housing throughout more ethnically and economically diverse areas for a wider range of family sizes, with better tracking of neglected, underutilized and/or derelict properties.
  • Closely monitor and preserve the current body of affordable workforce and critical need properties to maximize the savings between a rehabilitated unit and a newly constructed one, including income-restricted properties, covenant restricted properties and those with a notice of intent to sell.
  • Continue to foster home ownership through existing and additional homebuyer assistance and support programs.
  • Encourage environmental sustainability and improved public health throughout all housing initiatives, including green building standards, transit-oriented developments, energy/water conservation, bicycle-pedestrian amenities, and access to fresh food and other healthy lifestyle options.

The report notes that new and rehabbed affordable housing developments bring direct investments, construction jobs and spending into neighborhoods. For example, a 100-unit subsidized housing community that costs $16.4 million, will create 61 construction and support jobs and 26 indirect jobs in the 10-county Denver-Aurora metropolitan statistical area, according to the National Association of Home Builders. It also will create $5.4 million in local wages and salaries, contribute $2.1 million to the income of local business owners, and bring $700,000 annually to city coffers, according to the NAHB projection.

Housing Denver does not provide a “one size fits all” plan but rather a range of options to best fit the needs of a diverse community across differing levels of income, experience, preference, family size, age and/or disability, according to city officials. Rather, the plan is a “living document” that states the city’s principles, priorities, goals and initiatives as they concern Denver’s housing needs that will be supplemented each year with measurable annual action plans.

“Denver’s new plan strives to illustrate a full spectrum of housing needs and resources while strengthening the public-private partnerships that are necessary to boost affordable housing options,” said Paul Washington. Executive Director of the Office of Economic Development.

“From emergency shelter for the homeless all the way up to payment assistance for a homebuyer, creating affordable housing takes many forms, and our goal is to help more people appreciate the diversity of who benefits from a strong housing program,” Washington said.

HOUSING.DENVER-14The need for a citywide housing plan was first identified by the Mayor’s Housing Task Force in 2012.

Subsequently, the Mayor’s Housing Advisory Committee was convened to inform and guide the plan, and a housing market demographic update was commissioned to guide the plan’s development.

The mayor’s “3 x 5” challenge for Denver’s public, private and nonprofit housing community was set in mid-2013, identifying a goal of 3,000 developed, rehabilitated or preserved affordable housing units in five years.

During its first year, the challenge resulted in the creation, rehabilitation and preservation of 731 affordable units, putting it well on its way toward completion.

Housing Denver is the result of extensive stakeholder input from the affordable housing, real estate and finance communities as well as feedback and ideas generated from residents through a series of public meetings.

“Affordable housing development is a challenging landscape, requiring strong partnerships throughout our local communities,” said Rick Garcia, Regional Administrator of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Strategic plans like Housing Denver provide a solid platform for cities to advance these partnerships, further leverage public and private housing resources, and ultimately increase home affordability,” Garcia added.

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John Rebchook

John Rebchook has more than 30 years of experience in writing and communications. As the Real Estate Editor for the Rocky Mountain News, he wrote about residential and commercial real estate for 26 years. He has won numerous awards for business stories and columns that he wrote, both as an individual and part of teams. In addition to real estate, he also covered economic development, banking and financing, the airlines, and cable TV for the Rocky. In addition, he was one of the original freelance writers for, covering commercial real estate for the Internet publication.

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