Dear Office of the Mayor,
In regards to the new funding stream for housing, Denver Homeless Out Loud has the following to say. Well it is about time. The first step in a 1000 mile journey has finally been taken. This dedicated funding stream has been needed for at least a decade. And now it is about exist. Much like the college student turning in his first weekly assignment just after mid terms and then expecting high marks and accolades for his effort, such is Denver’s first attempt to meet its long standing housing need. Denver has been one of the few cities its size not to have such a funding stream. No wonder there is such a need for housing that people can actually afford. While it is a start, there is a lot of make-up home work that needs to be completed quickly or the crises will only worsen. And fast.
While finally available we note that this funding stream is far below the critical need for the city of Denver, a need which will only grow as people flock to our city. Funding levels for housing need to increase dramatically and quickly. Approximately 10 times as much as is proposed in this legislation is needed now. (if you compare to funding streams of cities comparable to Denver’s size). Portland Government Website states, “Unprecedented population growth is forecasted for the Portland Metro area ‐ another 200,000 residents are expected by 2035. This growth will further pressure the upward cost of housing. The current need for affordable housing in our Metro region is 40,000 units and the deficit increases steadily. An estimated $1 billion investment over the next 20 years will be needed to address the magnitude of our affordable housing crisis.” As the years go buy the need will only be greater here in Denver. How will we ever met the housing need if we only make plans to meet a small portion of that need to begin with? We implore to city to increase the level of funding and increase the goals of the numbers of units. (stated goals are, at most, 10% of the need). The city does not need an expensive failure. Much like the college student who wastes his tuition money because he decided to delay starting his studies till after midterms, his chances of catching up are slim. So are Denver’s. But success is not impossible. A great concerted and urgent effort is needed.
Unfortunately there are some signs that this is only a token effort. A Public Relations move at best. You would think that the funding would first be allocated for those with the greatest need first. Which for Denver is low income housing. Think about it. People who can afford “market rate” housing can also afford low income housing. People who can afford “workforce housing” can also afford low income housing. But low income folks cannot afford market rate housing. Low income folks cannot afford workforce housing. Common sense would seem to state you get every one into something that they can afford first and work your way up towards less urgent needs as you address the crisis. Strange how this funding stream is available to folks who make as much as 120% AMI. I would think that people who make anything close to or over 100% AMI would be considered able to afford “market rate” housing. Housing that costs beyond that being considered “luxury”. And thus not funded by the city. Yet the city seems unwilling to acknowledge the need for low income housing much less fund it. Projects designed for those at the 30-40% AMI level would seem most appropriate for a city full of low wage earning restaurant and hospitality workers. It is our cities greatest need. Or these workers will be forced to work their jobs while sleeping in the dirt (there are many who do already).
The city has coddled developers’ desires to build on the high end for too long. The best way to get the heavily needed low income housing is to fund it. Then when there is enough housing available for everybody we can look at more expensive forms of housing. It will help with the crisis. Volume. Numbers of units. Not dollars spent. 1 million spent on 10 units is not as effective as half a million spent on 50 units. Developers will whine and complain along the way but will find a way to comply and make money. They are smart enough to figure out a way to make such projects work for them. They just need to be pushed to do so.
So much like the college student who has dug himself a big hole in his coursework, Denver has a big hole to climb out of in regards to housing. Thanks for the first attempt. It is a start on a long journey. Keep it coming but our hopes at this point for the City being able to effectively address the greatest need is guarded at best.
Denver Homeless Out Loud