By Libby Smith
DENVER (CBS4) – Denver has seen some dramatic economic changes in the last few years.
“At one point Denver and our metro region really led the nation in terms of foreclosures,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.
Now housing can’t be built fast enough.
“We’ve more than recovered, we’ve stormed back from the recession, so that’s very positive,” Hancock told CBS4’s Britt Moreno.
With the recovery came the people — 100,000 new residents in the last 12 months, another 100,000 estimated to come.
“We are one of the top cities in this nation for millennials moving to this city. We’re number three in the nation for retirees moving here,” Hancock explained.
“What is the next big hurdle for creating affordable housing here in Denver?” Moreno asked the Mayor.
“We recognize, Britt, that we were 30,000 units upside down in this city in terms of supply and demand,” he responded.
Mayor Hancock has made affordable housing a top priority of his administration. He convened a housing task force in 2012, published a 5-year strategic housing plan, and issued the “3 by 5 Challenge” in 2013. The Challenge calls for 3,000 affordable housing units in 5 years, so far it’s netted 1,400 units.
“The ‘3 by 5 Initiative’ was less about 5,000 units than it was about raising or elevating this issue of affordable housing to the spear of all the other sectors,” Hancock said.
Hancock has also opened the city’s pocketbook, pledging millions of dollars to the issue.
“In my 2016 budget proposal, I will more than double this year’s commitment, allocating $8 million to preserve and build affordable homes,” he said during his 2015 inaugural address.
That money is used to provide loans and incentives to developers to make at least a portion of their projects affordable.
“Out of a 225-unit development, the city can come in and say, ‘We’ll help subsidize 50 of them, so that they’re affordable.’ So that makes the difference for them to move forward,” Hancock explained.
While new building is important, the problem is happening now. More and more families are being forced into homelessness.
“Do you feel that there are enough shelter beds in the city?” Moreno asked the Mayor.
“No, we know we have more work to do,” he responded, but went on to say that shelter beds are only the beginning of the solution. There have to be a lot of services that go with those beds.
The mayor says that his administration is working on three fronts to address this housing crisis — preservation, construction and acquisition. He calls it a challenge that is not insurmountable.
“This is a city that certainly is on the upward trend. We’re doing everything we can to try to provide different opportunities for folks who want to live in our city,” Hancock added.
Libby Smith is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. If you have a story you’d like to tell CBS4 about, call 303-863-TIPS (8477) or visit the News Tips section.