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Denver City Council Approves Affordable Housing Plan

(CBS4) – Nearly six hours after Denver's city council meeting began on Monday evening, leaders voted to approve the "Expanding Housing Affordability" policy. It's a joint effort by Mayor Michael Hancock and city council, in an effort to increase access to affordable housing across Denver. The city says it worked for more than a year to develop the policy, which will take effect on July 1.

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The proposal drew mixed opinions on both sides of the topic. Jerry Burton with the Housekeys Action Network was vehemently opposed to the proposal. He talked with CBS4's Mekialaya White as he waited outside chamber doors for his turn during public comment. "I was homeless. It's not pretty. For every year you're out there (on the streets), it takes five years off your life. The longer you're out there the more susceptible you are to becoming a drug addict, an alcoholic. The only way that person can feel stable is by being in a house."

Denver city planners say they plan to provide stability under the new ordinance. Under the plan, all new residential developments of 10 or more units must designate a minimum of 8% to 12% of the units as affordable for a period of 99 years, regardless of whether the units are for rent or for sale. The exact percentage will vary based on the level of affordability offered, but in all scenarios, these homes would need to be affordable for households making less than the area median income (AMI). In 2022, the AMI for a two-person household in Denver is about $94,000.

"If you are poor and houseless, this bill is not made to create housing for our community," echoed Therese Howard. "(The plan is) specifically aimed for people who are above 60% area median income. There is no housing mandated in this bill for people who are 50 percent below AMI. The solution is that housing is a public responsibility just like public schools or medical care -- not a private commodity to be kept at insane prices."

In higher-cost areas of the city, like downtown and Cherry Creek, developers would need to designate a minimum of 10% to 15% of new units as affordable. The ordinance also includes zoning and financial incentives to help offset the cost of building affordable units and to increase the overall supply of housing in Denver.

Mayor Hancock also weighed in on the plan's approval.

"I want to thank city staff for their dedication and work on this ordinance, our residents for providing their input, and City Council for their support of more affordable housing for our residents who need it most," said Hancock. "As the first city in Colorado to make use of this new authority, this is a big step forward in addressing this challenge. The lasting affordability guaranteed in this new policy will help bring down costs for hard-working individuals and families, and level the playing field for those facing housing insecurity."

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