Denver’s Failed Affordable Housing Program

According to a recent editorial in the Denver Post, the City’s “affordable housing ordinance has been a failure…. In the past five years, for example, it has resulted in only 16 affordable units being built.”

Twelve years ago Denver approved an inclusionary zoning ordinance (similar to the ordinance that was revoked in Longmont a few years ago).  It required developments with more than 30 units to deed restrict 10 percent of the units for people earning less than the median income. However, the ordinance also allowed developers to pay cash-in-lieu of meeting the requirement (which the editorial calls “sidestepping” the requirements). Now the City’s cash-in-lieu fund amounts to over $7 million.

A City Council member is trying to drum up support for revisions to fix the ordinance. Under her proposal, developers would have to pay the City more money to opt out of the ordinance in high-demand areas, such as downtown or around transit areas and would require the City to higher cash rebates ($20,000 per unit) to the developer. Whether this proposal will gain support from the rest of the City Council remains to be seen.

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