DENVER – Denver residents have about a month and a half to give their input on Mayor Michael Hancock’s new five-year plan to address housing issues in the city.
Called ‘Housing an Inclusive Denver,’ the plan encompasses a range of policies, strategies and investments that aim to keep housing affordable and accessible to everyone in Denver and not just those who can keep up with rising prices. The 98-page draft document is available online here.
"As we've said, we have a housing challenge in Denver," Hancock said. "When we have pressures around housing, that means people are being squeezed out and we know we need to move to address that."
The plan has four main goals: Creating more affordable housing where it’s needed, preserving existing affordable housing, promoting housing equity and access and helping at-risk residents stay in their homes.
“We focused this plan around the people we hope to serve, from those experiencing homelessness to renters and home owners struggling to keep pace with the market to those buying their first home,” said Denver Housing Advisory Committee Chair Kevin Marchman.
In addition to investing in more affordable housing, the city wants to make sure that it remains affordable long-term, instead of changing to market rate after a certain period of time.
The Mayor said he also wants the city to help people stay in their homes. He says there will be a fund to help people facing foreclosure who may not be able to make rent if they've had a medical bill or other unplanned expenses.
Denver mom-to-be Sheila Whiteside said more needs to be done.
"We lived in a tent for awhile," she said. "We couldn't afford an apartment."
Whiteside said she and her husband couldn't stay in a shelter because they both worked odd hours.
"If you have a job and are trying to work out of a shelter, you have to deal with them saying, 'oh, you have to be in by 11 p.m.' But if you work at a restaurant, you can't be guaranteed that you'll be off by 2 or 3 a.m."
Whiteside says she and her husband now live with a friend, but she still considers herself homeless, because they "don't have their own home."
She also says she'd like to see the Mayor get out and meet more people who have struggled with homelessness.
The city developed the plan with help from more than 1,500 people and advocacy groups who gave their input. Much of that input called for better support for the homeless and low-income residents, so the plan calls for more investments in resources that serve people who make less than 30 percent of the metro area’s median income.
“Our new five-year housing plan celebrates the diversity of our neighborhoods and identifies ways we can deploy our resources to help keep Denver a vibrant and affordable city,” Hancock said. “It’s our job to bring opportunities to communities that lift people up, not push them out and this plan outlines strategies to make this a housing market that works for everyone.”
"There are a lot of great components of the housing plan," said Terese Howard of Homeless Outloud, "but it's extremely important to point out that it's not a plan to create affordable housing for all those in need in Denver."
Denver has invested in 3,000 affordable units over the last 4 years. The Mayor says 1,000 more are under construction and that another 1,000 are "in the pipeline."
Howard said that's nowhere near enough.
"The city needs anywhere from 21,000 to 80,000 units," she said.
The 45-day public review period lasts through Nov. 13, after which the city will make final adjustments and then present the plan to the Denver City Council.