Affordable or Not-So Affordable Housing in Denver

By Emily Baker

Recently, my Price & Co partner and I were able to attend the Affordable Housing Forum hosted by All In Denver at the Mercury Cafe.  The Forum sought to review the results of a recent poll of Denverites with the audience and then to answer any questions that arose.

The poll revealed that concerns for housing were peak among Denver voters, exceeded only by education.  32% of people said they would like the Mayor and City Council to address education, 30% said affordable housing, 30% also said homelessness, and 19% said cost of living.  These were the top five concerns as shown by the poll.

Meanwhile, rent prices continue to rise and Denver voters have great concern about certain rights that landlords maintain.  Currently, there are no caps on application fees and so Landlords have the ability to profit off of them.  Some low-income renters can pay upwards of a month’s worth of rent on application fees alone before even being approved for a place to live.

In addition, landlords can evict without good cause, and vouchers and government assistance are not allowed to be taken as financial qualifications for an application.  This leaves a tremendous amount of low-income Denver residents without a way to qualify for housing.  Most renters’ rights bills addressing these issues died before being able to be passed.

So Denver voters are concerned about affordable housing.  What comes next?  The Colorado government has already allotted $15 million dollars per year for affordable housing.  While this sounds like a lot, it actually only funds construction of 600 units per year.  If this money were bonded while raising taxes by just $12/year, as was done in many other large cities struggling with affordable housing around the United States, this could yield $300 million per year for affordable housing: a significantly larger number.

What can we do? It’s great that people are concerned, but that is only the first step.  In order to enact change we must make change happen.  At the Forum, we were urged to reach out to our city council members and local government officials and push them to take action.  In addition, supporting organizations like All in Denver can go a long way.

Another great option is to explore purchasing a home.  Though to some it may seem like an unrealistic goal, minimum down payment loans and down payment assistance grants can help overcome the hurdles of high rents and low income.  But the bottom line is we all have to do something in order to make anything happen.

To learn more about All in Denver or the Affordable Housing poll check out their website.

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