Mayor: City must spend millions to bring affordable housing to Denver

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DENVER -- At a public meeting geared toward addressing Denver’s soaring rent rates, Mayor Michael Hancock discussed a plan Tuesday to create 6,000 affordable housing units in the city over the next 10 years.

On average, a one-bedroom apartment in Denver goes for about $1,250 a month, according to rent trend data. At Tuesday’s meeting, Hancock discussed a proposed local funding source that would spread $150 million over a 10-year span to help create the new units.

In just less than three years, 1,700 housing units have popped in Denver, but most carry a hefty price tag.

“We are seeing some stabilization, but until we bring more inventory into the market, we’re not going to see those prices begin to become a little more acceptable for folks who are trying to enter the market,” Hancock said.

The city has seen some success with developing affordable housing units over the past couple of years. Last week, 156 affordable housing units became available at the new Park Hill Station Complex.

“Affordability is relative. But when we’ve seen the kind of run on demand that we’ve seen, obviously, it’s absolutely outstripping people’s ability to not be overburdened,” Hancock said.

Hancock’s funding plan calls for $15 million a year for 10 years. The goal is to deploy tax mills and combine them with developer’s fees to help pick up the tab.

“I think it’s a good window [of time to develop],” said Robbie Roppolo, a Denver resident who attended the meeting.

Roppolo said his rent went up by about $250 to $300 over the past three years. He would like to find a one-bedroom apartment in the city for less than $1,000 but came to the conclusion they don’t exist.

“The only reason I can afford to live [in the University Hill section] is because I have a roommate. Like, I would never be able to afford a one-bedroom with the current rent, based on what my salary is,” Roppolo said.

Hancock told the crowd, "there is not a more important priority in the city of Denver" right now, compared to affordable housing.

The first year’s tax mill was approved by voters in 2013, the mayor’s office said. Moving forward, it said working with the private sector will be crucial.

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