Denver adopts Hancock’s affordable housing fund

Denver City Council established a permanent, dedicated affordable housing fund Monday night in a vote of 9-4.

The fund was constructed by Mayor Michael Hancock’s office, in tandem with council members Albus Brooks and Robin Kniech. It will establish a fee on new development and an increase in property taxes to provide $150 million over 10 years to build and preserve 6,000 new affordable units.

An alternative funding proposal, recommended by councilman Christopher Herndon, was voted down in a 8-4-1 vote. It would have drawn from the city’s general fund in the first year and later taken time to examine alternative revenue sources. Council members Rafael Espinoza and Debbie Ortega co-sponsored the alternative, though Ortega ultimately decided to vote for Hancock’s proposal.

Immediately before the council meeting, a coalition of groups that calls itself GES (Globeville, Elyrica and Swansea) Anti-Displacement Coalition held a press conference on the front steps of the City and County building. Speakers called for the city to do more to address involuntary displacement.

Katherine Aguilar, a lifelong Swansea resident, freshman at the Community College of Denver and a youth leader with nonprofit Project Voyce, will be forced to leave her home when I-70 is expanded next year. She says that her family has been searching for housing in the neighborhood, to no avail.

“We will not settle for scraps,” Aguilar said.

During a public comment hearing prior to the vote, fourteen community members spoke in favor of the original bill, eight supported the alternative, and eight people shared their opinions without endorsing either proposal.

Representatives of the building and development community, including spokespeople for the Downtown Denver Partnership and the Apartment Association of Metro Denver, advocated for Herndon, Ortega and Espinoza’s alternative.

Herndon and his co-sponsors proposed the alternative citing concerns about the original proposal not raising enough funds to adequately confront Denver’s housing crisis, not about an undue impact on the development community.

Many Denver residents voiced support for the original bill, which was ultimately successful. In their view, it is better poised to take immediate effect.

Terrell Curtis, Executive Director of Dolores Project, emphasized the sense of urgency for affordable housing she hears from the clients at her shelter.

“We can’t delay this,” Curtis said. “A yearlong delay is a lifetime.”

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