By Jeff Todd
DENVER (CBS4) – Millions of dollars will be available to help with Denver’s affordable housing problem after the city council approved the first affordable housing fund.
Denver is the fastest growing city in the nation and ranks among the 50 largest cities. That makes the challenge to find affordable housing tough.
“I would call it a significant step,” said Denver City Council President Albus Brooks. “It’s a significant step and it sets the base for significant housing in the city of Denver.”
The Denver City Council approved a plan to use money from property taxes to fund the program. The average household will be about $12 a year to contribute to the program. Over 10 years, the program will bring in $150 million, broken down into $15 million per year.
“Two sources, half a mill for property taxes (which was already passed by Denver voters) and an impact fee up to $1.70 per square foot on any new development in Denver,” Brooks said. “Now this is a permanent fund into the future where we can guarantee this city will be an inclusive city.”
Since 2010, the cost of rent has risen dramatically and the supply of affordable options hasn’t been able to keep up with the demand. Some say the city isn’t doing enough.
“Eventually what will happen here is all the people who work here in this city and are close to the neighborhood are getting pushed out. There’s nowhere affordable within a 20-mile radius,” said Rey Gallegos who lives in Globeville and would like to see the city do more to keep residents in their current neighborhoods.
“Everybody in this neighborhood has deep roots in this neighborhood. If they get displaced they have nowhere else to go,” Gallegos said. “The more people that move in here, the more rent goes up, the less we’re able to survive on just a daily basis.”
The City of Denver estimates 87,000 households pay more than one-third of their monthly income toward housing costs.
The money will be used to help keep apartments and homes available at low and moderate rates in addition to funding new housing options at affordable rates.
“Some of it is about rehab, some of it is about existing units that are going on to market rate units, and the city can step in and say, ‘We’re making sure those are affordable,” Brooks said. “This just gives us a base to build an equitable system. This is the largest fund in the state of Colorado’s history, it’s a great first step.”
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.