Construction starts on new affordable housing complex in Denver

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DENVER -- City leaders broke ground on a new affordable housing complex on Thursday, but the project will do little to stop the sharp rise in rental prices across the city, especially downtown.

Developers have been working for years to keep pace with Denver’s population boom and increased demand for city living, but as new developments grow there still don’t seem to be many signs that prices are going to shrink.

A study by DenverInfill.com found that once current construction is complete, there will be nearly 13,752 new units within a 1.5 mile radius of downtown Denver since 2010.

But many of those new units are catering to a high-end clientele and those who can afford some pretty high prices for Denver.

Prices were checked on four recently completed rental complexes in neighborhoods surrounding downtown.

Joule (Golden Triangle)
Studio: 500 square feet starts at $1,600
One bed/one bath: 800 square feet starts at $2,200

One City Block (North Capitol Hill)
Studio: 500 square feet starts at $1,500
One bed/one bath: 700 square feet starts at $1,700

The Douglas (Ballpark Neighborhood)
Studio: 500 square feet starts at $1,400
One bed/one bath: 800 square feet starts at $1,900

The Platform at Union Station (Lower Downtown)
Studio: 500 square feet starts at $1,600
One bed/one bath: 800 square feet starts at $2,600

"I worry that we're going to see concentrated poverty and areas of concentrated wealth, so that the segregation of the city just grows greater,” said John Hayden, who has worked to promote sustainable growth in the city for more than 20 years.

“In order for downtown to be a vibrant place to live, you need families and you need the elderly and you need students and those are groups of people who often can't afford to pay $1,400 for a studio apartment.”

Hayden said he believes the rent prices will begin to level off as the more new projects are completed, and he said the continued urban development is a part of the solution, not the problem.

“If we just continue to sprawl out into the Plains, then we're building a city that, ultimately, isn't sustainable,” Hayden said.

Hayden said this is likely one of the busiest construction seasons in decades and there is some evidence to support that.

DenverInfill recently counted 23 tower cranes working on projects across the city, which is more than double the count in 2013.

Here’s a look at how those cranes and other planned projects will be transforming the Denver skyline.

Hayden said he’d like to see the city continue to add affordable housing all over the city, including downtown, and he hopes the cranes remain on the horizon for years to come.

“It really is those cranes and all the construction that will help bring those prices to a level that people can afford,” Hayden said.