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Denver Housing Profile

Locality: Denver, Colorado (USA)
City Population: 727,211 (2019)
Metro Population: 2.9 million (2010)

Plan Title: Housing an Inclusive Denver
Date of Plan: February 2018
Date of Case Study: September 2020

Substantive highlights

Housing an Inclusive Denver was prepared by Denver’s Housing Advisory Committee, the Office of Housing and Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE), and Office of Economic Development in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners Inc. The five-year plan was adopted by the Denver City Council in February 2018 and outlines strategies for creating and preserving stable and affordable housing in neighborhoods with high opportunity for jobs and economic mobility, comprehensive health services, access to quality education, and mobility and transit connections. In addition to developing five-year plans, the City is required by local legislation to develop an annual action plan to determine and fund policy priorities to achieve the overarching goals of Housing an Inclusive Denver. The City Council does not directly approve the annual action plans but can influence spending priorities through the budgetary process.

Housing an Inclusive Denver identifies legislative, regulatory, and investment strategies aimed at the following four core goals:

  • Creating affordable housing in vulnerable areas and in areas of opportunity
  • Preserving affordability and housing quality
  • Promoting equitable and accessible housing
  • Stabilizing residents at risk of involuntary displacement

The quantifiable goals of the plan are to complete the following by year 2023:

  • Create 2,000 new affordable units
  • Preserve 1,000 existing affordable units
  • Serve 20,000 households with program resources such as homebuyer counseling, down payment assistance, and supportive services
  • Serve 10,000 households through programs such as tenant-landlord counseling, eviction assistance, and emergency home repair

Housing an Inclusive Denver will be funded in part by federal grants such as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Housing Opportunities for Persons with Aids (HOPWA), and Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG). Other funding will come from local sources such as a new, one-time housing linkage fee on commercial and residential developments, existing property taxes, and interest on loans to local businesses from the Denver Office of Economic Development.

Process

In 2016, Denver’s city council approved a dedicated, 10-year, $150 million housing fund supported through development impact fees and property taxes. The same year, the City published a study on gentrification in Denver. The study served as an essential building block for strategies outlined in Housing an Inclusive Denver, which aims to protect residents from involuntary displacement.

In 2017, the City Council created the Housing Advisory Committee (HAC) composed of Council appointees and public housing experts. The HAC worked with Enterprise Community Partners, a housing and community development non-profit, to develop Denver’s five year housing plan. To help develop the plan, Enterprise met regularly with the HAC and convened three focus groups of City staff from various departments to address issues of rental affordability, homelessness, and homeownership. Enterprise also received input from stakeholders recommended by the Office of Economic Development and the Office of Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE), and from over 1,000 public survey responses.

Building on the City’s 2016 gentrification study, Mitigating Involuntary Displacement, Enterprise used its Opportunity360 platform to identify five neighborhood types based on the kinds of housing, healthcare, transportation, education, and level of economic mobility available to residents. The neighborhood types were used to determine how neighborhoods affect their residents’ access to opportunity and which housing production and preservation strategies the City should use to address housing issues at the neighborhood level. Housing an Inclusive Denver includes recommended strategies for each of the five neighborhood types identified by Enterprise.

Housing an Inclusive Denver also built upon and will be integrated with existing City plans, such as Denveright, a community-based planning process that outlines the City’s vision for land-use, transit, and parks.

In 2018, following recommendation from the Housing Advisory Committee, the City Council adopted and began implementing Housing an Inclusive Denver. In each of 2018, 2019 and 2020, the City of Denver produced a detailed action plan which describes the pieces of the plan that have been accomplished and outlines the steps expected to be completed in the upcoming year.

Metrics, targets, and implementation

The plan will implement four core goals between 2018 and 2023. In addition to the five-year plan, an Annual Action Plan schedule will outline the priorities for the city to designate local and federal funds for each fiscal year during the five-year plan period.

If local and federal resources remain consistent with current levels, the City and its partners will aim to:

  • Create 2,000 new affordable units by 2023. (1,030 units in year 2020)
  • Preserve 1,000 existing affordable units by 2023. (100 units in year 2020)
  • Promote equitable and accessible housing options with program resources such as homebuyer counseling, down payment assistance, and supportive services for 20,000 households by 2023. The goal for 2020 only is 4,030 households.
  • Stabilize residents at risk for involuntary displacement through program investments such as tenant-landlord counseling, eviction assistance, and emergency home repair for at least 10,000 households by 2023. The goal for 2020 only is 5,680 households.

Implementation status

Adopted by City Council in early 2018, Housing, an Inclusive Denver, identifies 28 specific priority strategies to be implemented over five years. Currently, just 20 months into the plan’s implementation, 10 of the priority strategies have been completed.

Completed actions include:

  • Stabilizing households through tax relief programs (Legislative and Regulatory Priorities)
  • Leveraging publicly owned land for affordable housing development (Strategic Use of Land to Support Affordable Housing)
  • Implementing tools to promote long-term affordability of housing, including land trusts, throughout Denver communities (Strategic Use of Land to Support Affordable Housing)
  • Building housing capacity through policy and funding alignment (Housing for Residents Experiencing Homelessness)
  • Promoting programs that help households stay in their existing rental housing through comprehensive eviction assistance (Affordable and Workforce Rental Housing)

Priority strategies to be continued in 2020 include:

  • Analyzing existing housing resources for performance, structure and sustainability
  • Pursuing regional collaboration with partners across the Denver Metro Area to promote inclusive communities
  • Developing more consistent standards for affordable housing in major redevelopment areas
  • Enhancing protections and assistance for renters, including exploring a rental registry
  • Exploring a framework and methodology for determining a preference in new housing for residents at risk of displacement
  • Facilitating acquisition of land directly and through partners for housing development
  • Expanding investments in housing options for residents experiencing homelessness and integrate providers across the housing continuum
  • Preserving existing income-restricted affordable rental housing in vulnerable neighborhoods and near transit and existing income restricted homeownership
  • Promoting programs that help households maintain their existing homes

Coverage of four policy pillars

Not Covered Moderate FocusA pillar is a Moderate Focus of a housing strategy when the strategy addresses it, but in a minor or secondary way, such as by including only one policy of modest projected impact from the pillar. Substantial FocusA pillar is a Substantial Focus of a housing strategy when the strategy includes policies falling within multiple functional subcategories of that pillar or at least one policy projected to have a large impact.
Create and preserve dedicated affordable housing units
Promote affordability by reducing barriers to new supply
Help households access private-market homes
Protect against displacement and poor housing conditions

Participating agencies

No Role Supporting Role Leading Role
Office of the Mayor
Housing Department
Department of Planning & Development
Permitting/Inspections Department
Finance/Tax Department
Public Housing Authority
City/County Council

Policy tools

Housing and affordability investments

  • Analyze existing housing resources for performance, structure, and sustainability
  • Explore opportunities to expand existing resources for housing investments
  • Coordinate housing investments with the City’s other affordability resources
  • Pursue regional collaboration with partners across the Denver Metro Area to promote inclusive communities

Legislative and regulatory priorities

  • Strengthen the City’s Preservation Ordinance. Clarify processes already in place (i.e. right-of-first-refusal), strengthen relationships with preservation partners, and explore ways to enhance provisions within the preservation ordinance (i.e. right-of-first-option, support for residents of income-restricted properties, and extension of the minimum affordability period for city subsidized projects).
  • Expand and strengthen land-use regulations for affordable and mixed-income housing, evaluate the success of the “tiny home” and “incentive overlay for building heights” pilot programs, and create incentive packages for developers of affordable housing (i.e. parking reductions, special staff support, and lower permit fees).
  • Develop more consistent standards for affordable housing in major redevelopment areas and explore tax-increment financing as support for anti-displacement strategies, in partnership with Denver Urban Renewal Authority and Denver Public Schools.
  • Enhance protections and assistance for renters, including exploring a rental registry. Conduct a citywide analysis of staffing capacity to develop and administer a rental registry and explore implementation of standard leasing practices.
  • Stabilize households through tax relief programs. Promote participation in existing tax-relief programs through community-based organizations and explore tax-relief for multi-unit property owners who do not qualify for nonprofit exemption.
  • Explore a framework and methodology for determining a preference in new housing for residents at risk of displacement, leverage existing data to understand demographic characteristics of Denver neighborhoods, and explore similar policies in peer cities to inform preference policies in Denver.
  • Enhance the existing State Low Income Housing Tax Credit in partnership with Colorado Housing and Finance Authority and Colorado Division of Housing and extend current program beyond 2019.

Strategic use of land to support affordable housing

  • Leverage publicly owned land for affordable housing development after evaluating suitability based on transit proximity and neighborhood indicators and develop procurement processes to identify development partners.
  • Facilitate acquisition of land directly and through partners for housing development. Leverage existing financial resources for acquisition, especially in vulnerable neighborhoods in proximity to high-performing schools and job centers.
  • Explore tools to promote long-term affordability of housing, including land trusts, throughout Denver communities.

Housing for residents experiencing homelessness

  • Expand investments in housing options for residents experiencing homelessness and integrate providers across the housing continuum. Expand Coordinated Entry Systems (CES), align policies with the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, and employ shelter diversion strategies.
  • Build housing capacity through policy and funding alignment. Develop criteria for providing operating subsidies from the dedicated housing fund, evaluate homeless support projects, and complete a comprehensive financial model for the analysis of costs, sources and use of resources for supportive housing.
  • Prioritize supportive services “gap” funding for approved supportive housing projects. Prioritize funding of existing permanent supportive housing (PSH) and create framework for a ranking system to determine funding for upcoming PSH projects.

Affordable and workforce rental housing

  • Preserve existing income-restricted affordable rental housing in vulnerable neighborhoods and near transit by maintaining a list of priority preservation projects, using proactive strategies (i.e. acquisition, rehabilitation financing, and low-income tax credits), and developing bridge financing for properties at risk of converting to market rate.
  • Preserve affordability of unsubsidized large-scale affordable rental properties by educating owners of available finance tools (i.e. PACE funding) and by providing bridge financing and low-income tax credits.
  • Preserve affordability of unsubsidized small-scale affordable rental properties by incentivizing owners with financial tool packages (i.e. rehabilitation resources and tax relief) or by acquiring such properties using San Francisco’s Small Site Acquisition Program as a model.
  • Promote programs that help households stay in their existing rental housing through comprehensive eviction assistance including direct financial assistance, connections to legal aid, and education about tenant rights.
  • Promote development of new affordable, mixed-income and mixed-use housing through mechanisms such as gap financing, bridge financing, and loan guarantees and exploring support for live-work units for artists.
  • Promote programs that help households access affordable rental housing including the LIVE Denver program to buy down affordability of vacant units in high-opportunity areas and the Tenant Based Rental Assistance program to help residents experiencing homelessness return to housing.

Attainable homeownership

  • Promote programs that help households maintain their existing homes including homeowner rehabilitation programs (i.e. The Denver Urban Renewal Authority’s Single-Family Rehab and Emergency Home Repair programs) and financial literacy programs.
  • Promote development of new affordable and mixed-income homeownership stock by evaluating the pilot mixed-income condo and exploring models such as cohousing development.
  • Preserve affordability of existing income restricted homeownership stock by exploring partnerships with nonprofits and foundations and educating homeowners about Denver’s affordable homeownership covenant.
  • Preserve affordability of existing unsubsidized affordable for-sale housing using tools such as shared appreciation loans.
  • Promote programs that help households access for-sale housing, including down payment and homebuyer assistance programs (i.e. the Metro Mortgage Assistance Plus program), tax credit programs (i.e. Metro Mortgage Credit Certificate program), and the LIVE Denver pilot escrow model which allows a portion of each month’s rent to contribute to a down payment.

Income groups targeted

Little/No Focus Moderate Focus Substantial Focus
0-30% AMI
30-60% AMI
60-80% AMI
80-120% AMI
Market Rate

Principal housing policy objectives

Which linkages are addressed

  • ✓ Transportation
  • ✓ Employment
  • ✓ Education
  • ✓ Health

Which local funding sources are proposed?

  • ✓ Housing Linkage Fee on commercial/residential development
  • ✓ Existing property taxes
  • ✓ Housing Linkage Fee on commercial/residential development
  • ✓ Interest on loans from the Office of Economic Development
  • ✓ Housing Linkage Fee on commercial/residential development
  • ✓ Loans from Community development financial institutions
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