DENVER -- The city of Denver could become the first city in the country to allow people to live and work in unpermitted spaces. The city is proposing a “conditional occupancy” program that would allow people to stay in buildings while improvements are made.
According to a news release from the Denver Development Services Department, the conditional occupancy program will ensure safety, limit displacement, and allow extended deadlines to achieve code compliance.
“As property values rise, displacement is a very real concern for the arts community and for other vulnerable groups in Denver,” said Brad Buchanan, executive director of Denver Community Planning and Development. “This program will make it safer, easier and less expensive for people to live and work in the neighborhoods they helped build."
In December, the artist community at the "Rhinoceropolis" on Brighton Boulevard was evicted after fire inspectors discovered numerous code violations. The city says the proposal was created with creative spaces in mind, but it would be applicable to buildings with other uses as well. The proposal incorporates the following conditions:
- For two years from the bill’s effective date, the owner or tenant of an existing unpermitted space may come forward to apply for the program.
- City code officials would inspect the space to assess its safety, but would not require the owner to correct violations right away unless there is a serious life-safety concern.
- The owner or tenant will work with city code officials to create a plan and set extended timelines for making sure their space is up to code. This would involve the applicant hiring an architect or other licensed professional.
- During this process, an owner or tenant may apply for a conditional certificate of occupancy to continue to use the building. City officials will grant this allowance after verifying that no serious life safety hazards exist and a plan to bring the building up to code is in place.
- While work is ongoing, inspections will be scheduled to assess progress.
The Denver City Council will review the proposal on June 28.