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Denver draft proposal to require affordable homes in all large residential developments

DENVER – Denver Community Planning and Development and the Department of Housing Stability have released a draft policy proposal aimed at creating more affordable homes in Denver. The proposal responds to recent changes in state law to allow municipalities greater freedom in addressing local housing needs.

“This issue affects everyone who lives in Denver. Greater affordability for the people who make up our great city – our teachers, firefighters, restaurant workers, and many others – and putting it within their reach will benefit our city for years to come,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “We all benefit economically and socially when there is more affordable housing and more mixed-income communities in Denver. This policy proposal improves our ability to make that a reality for Denver residents here today and for residents in the future.”

The draft policy proposal would:

  • Create a mandatory affordable housing requirement that would apply to every new residential development of eight or more units. Developers would be required to build a certain percentage of the new homes in each development affordable for people earning less than the area median income. This would apply to both for-rent and for-sale housing.
  • Create zoning and financial incentives, such as permit fee reductions or a height incentive, to help partially offset costs
  • Ensure that all types of new development continue to support the creation of future affordable housing by increasing the city’s linkage fee for commercial development and residential development of seven or fewer units. The proposed fee increase will bring Denver more in line with other cities along the Front Range and nationally. Residential developments of eight or more units that build affordable homes as part of the development would be exempt from the linkage fee. 

“If we are to create an inclusive city where our workforce, our first-time homebuyers, and our long-time residents can afford to live, our neighborhoods must provide a range of housing options at varying price points,” said Laura E. Aldrete, executive director of Community Planning and Development. “It’s not enough just to have more new homes, we must also have new, affordable homes.”

“In order to meet the scale of the need that we see in Denver, our market-rate partners must be part of the affordability solution,” said Britta Fisher, executive director of Denver’s Department of Housing Stability. “Cities across the nation have used similar policies, and we are encouraged by discussions to date on what is workable to provide greater affordability in Denver.”

The city’s draft proposal would require large residential developments of eight or more rental units to designate between 8% and 12% of the apartments as affordable for a period of 99 years. Residential developments of eight or more for-sale units would need to designate between 10% and 15% of homes as affordable for a period of 99 years. In higher-cost areas of the city, such as downtown, developers would need to provide 2% to 3% more affordable units. The exact percentages contained in the policy proposal vary based on the level of affordability offered.

The city arrived at these figures through many months of work balancing the perspectives of industry and neighborhood stakeholders, studying comparable programs in other cities, and developing a detailed financial feasibility analysis using real building costs, operating costs, rents and sales prices from recent local projects.

The city invites public comment on the draft policy proposal, which will be available for public review, questions, and input through the end of the year. More detailed regulations will be released in early 2022, which will also be available for public review and comment. Both the Denver Planning Board and Denver City Council are expected to consider adoption of final requirements in spring 2022.

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