On Friday morning, May 19, Mayor Michael Hancock and other Denver officials announced at the city's annual Housing Summit a number of new initiatives to address homelessness, rising rent costs and a lack of affordable housing in Denver.
Mayor Hancock opened the summit, which was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Denver, by citing some sobering facts about the housing market.
“It seems like every month we get another report that Denver's housing costs have increased,” Hancock said. “And today we are seeing that nearly three out of four individuals experiencing homelessness are working.”
According to charts and tables that were included in information packets passed out at the summit, median rent costs for apartments in Denver have risen 67 percent over the past five years, and a little over a third (36 percent) of all Denver households are “housing cost burdened,” meaning that their occupants pay over 30 percent of their gross income for housing and utilities.
Denver's issues with homelessness have drawn considerable attention, including from national publications like the New York Times, over the past year and a half. Even during Friday's summit, I received multiple tips that police officers were handing out notices in the Ballpark neighborhood saying that homeless individuals must clear out their encampments by the end of this coming weekend.
Mayor Hancock did not address police actions aimed to curb homelessness. But he did tout initiatives like the city's $150 million program to build 6,000 affordable housing units over ten years. He stressed that the city could do more to combat issues like affordability.
One of the most significant announcements at the summit was that Denver's new office of HOPE – Housing and Opportunities for People Everywhere – will be tackling thirty small initiatives during 2017 to alleviate pressures across the homeless-to-housing spectrum.
According to HOPE director Erik Soliván , who moved to Denver from Philadelphia to head up the department, the need for solutions to combat the housing crisis is “urgent," especially as about 1,000 new residents move into Denver each month.
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The list of thirty initiatives that Soliván introduced on Friday includes programs to help the homeless, like approving a tiny-home village in RiNo and offering storage options for individuals to secure their belongings when they check into shelters, as well as programs to assist renters, such developing a guide to tenants' rights.
A full list of the thirty initiatives can be found on the HOPE office's website.
“These are the new strategies that [move forward] the Mayor’s strategic vision for a city that works together,” said Soliván. “We're looking to make impact investments in good housing, good jobs and good health.”