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Inclusive Communities Working Group in Denver

NHC invites guest authors to write on important housing topics.  The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of NHC or its members.
Denver is one of the fastest growing urban areas in the country, with more than 60,000 new residents since 2010. To accommodate that growth, cranes dot the skyline and Denver’s building department has experienced a surge in new development permits over the last few years, with a succession of record breaking permits pulled in 2013, 2014 and 2015. But even with new investment and economic opportunities, wages are not keeping pace with rising housing costs and not all residents are benefiting from the growth Denver is experiencing.

Understanding that diverse and inclusive neighborhoods are what make cities so unique, Denver is taking a number of steps to address our affordability crisis. On May 19, Mayor Michael B. Hancock and the city’s Office of Economic Development hosted the second annual Housing Summit to identify strategies to address Denver’s growing need for affordable housing. With sessions on gentrification, access to opportunity, small-scale affordability, mixed-income housing and housing for vulnerable populations, the Summit brought together more than 400 policy makers and housing experts from across the region.  At the center of this platform is a proposal announced in 2015 by Mayor Hancock to create a dedicated source of revenue for affordable housing, raising at least $150 million over the first 10 years to build or preserve more than 6,000 housing units.
 The dialogue  also included voices from our peer cities across the nation, bringing best practices and new ideas to help Denver address affordability.  Recognizing that many major jurisdictions share similar affordability issues, the National Housing Conference has created the Inclusive Communities Working Group (ICWG), comprised of representatives from major metropolitan cities, counties and states. The ICWG provides a platform for communities to share ideas and strategies to address the full spectrum of housing issues, from supportive services and temporary shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness to wealth building opportunities for moderate-income families seeking to own a first home.
May’s meeting of the ICWG was scheduled to overlap with the Housing Summit, allowing members to attend and participate in the discussion, bringing new perspectives and ideas to a Denver audience. The regular meeting of the ICWG, scheduled for the following day, focused on middle-income housing strategies. Denver, similar to other jurisdictions around the country, is experiencing a housing boom that threatens to push out families that earn too much to qualify for deed restricted housing but cannot afford the skyrocketing home and rent prices. With a median home price of $350K in 2016, Denver’s annual rate of home value growth is the highest in the nation at 15.7 percent.
Participating in NHC’s ICWG has provided a networking opportunity among housing leaders across the country to meet our counterparts in other high and rising cost areas as well as an opportunity to brainstorm strategies for affordable housing, neighborhood development and economic mobility.  Together we challenge each other to find creative ways to serve low and moderate-income residents and create inclusive communities.
We look forward to future meetings and the ongoing discussion!
Guest author Laura Brudzynski works in the office of economic development for the city and county of Denver. For more information about the Inclusive Communities Working Group please visit our Policy Working Groups webpage. Also keep an eye out for a soon to be released publication on Opportunity Mapping that was developed with guidance from members of the Inclusive Communities Working Group.
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