Denver to 'study' how to increase funding for comprehensive housing plan

Some council members call situation a crisis

DENVER -- The Mile High City is in the midst of a housing boom unlike any seen before.

Construction cranes dot the skyline as high-rise apartments are under construction in the Golden Triangle, Five Points and RiNo neighborhoods.

"We've never seen more housing being built in this city than we have today," said Denver City Councilwoman Debbie Ortega. "It's just not attainable for many people."

Ortega was first elected to Council in 1987 and has seen periods of great growth and economic decline.

She said there is a great need to preserve housing for people who are struggling with escalating costs.

"There was a family in Globeville displaced by the upcoming expansion of I-70," she said. "They couldn't afford another house in Denver, so they had to move to Henderson. Their lives have been turned upside down."

City Councilman Paul Kashmann called it a crisis.

The homeless people you see in the parks are a very visible and heartbreaking element of the housing crisis," he said. "But there's another element."

Kashmann, who chairs the Council's Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee, said Denver is losing part of its workforce, because service industry employees, teachers and even some firefighters can't afford to live in the city limits.

Kashmann's committee heard a presentation about the Mayor's Five Year Comprehensive Housing Plan on Wednesday.

There are four key goals:

  • Create affordable housing in vulnerable areas AND in areas of opportunity
  • Preserve affordability and housing quality
  • Promote equitable and accessible housing options
  • Stabilize residents at risk of involuntary displacement

Ortega said affordable housing supporters have been asking the city to provide more resources to try to meet those goals.

"City Council had their budget retreat two weeks ago," Ortega said, "and this issue was right at the top of our list. Part of the conversation was that we need more money now, to address how to keep people in their homes, how to deal with gentrification and how to address people who are facing eviction."

The city created a fund to provide $15 million a year, but Ortega said that's not anywhere near enough.

Kashmann told Denver7 that hundreds of millions of dollars might be needed.

He said there is an overall trend of declining federal resources for housing, and that Denver might have to consider a bond issue.

Ortega, who represents the city "at-large," said she tried to put $30-million in the last bond package, "but at the time, people were looking at the priority needs in their own district."

She said she looks forward to seeing what other sources of revenue the Mayor's Office identifies to help fund the Comprehensive Housing Plan.

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