Denver Moves 576 People from Homelessness to Housing over 100 Days
City and coalition partners smash housing surge goal
In October, Mayor Michael B. Hancock and the Department of Housing Stability (HOST) launched an effort to get 200 people experiencing homelessness housed in 100 days. The housing surge concluded with a total of 340 households, including 576 individuals, placed into housing. The City worked with housing voucher, rapid resolution, rapid rehousing, and permanent supportive housing providers to reach the housing surge goal. A broad coalition of nonprofit and homeless service partners worked to achieve the housing surge goals, with the support and coordination of Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, Community Solutions, and Homebase. The City also leveraged the voter-approved Homelessness Resolution Fund to expand an existing contract with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless to provide housing units from their own portfolio and to help identify private landlords willing to participate. HOST is evaluating the success of the initiative and anticipates the launch of a secondary housing surge in February 2022.
The Rose on Colfax
HOST has partnered with Mercy Housing and Mile High Early Education on a new development called the Rose on Colfax, located at 1500 Valentia St. (formerly 8315 E. Colfax). The project will offer a unique combination of 82 affordable housing units and an onsite affordable early childhood education center. The complex, which will sit on the site of a former blighted strip club building, will offer units for households earning between 30% and 70% of the area median income, which is roughly $28,000 to $65,000 for a family of three. The City and County of Denver donated the parcel for the project, worth $1.4 million, for $10 and also supplied a $3,500,000 loan and $15,425,000 in Private Activity Bonds for the development, all of which is an historic commitment for a single project. Mercy Housing was chosen for this project through a competitive RFP for the site in 2019 along with extensive community input. The apartment complex is intended to open in 2023.
Two Paths to Homelessness, Two Very Different Reponses
In the wake of this disaster, the local community as well as the state and federal government quickly mobilized resources to ensure safety and shelter for those who were evacuated from Louisville, Superior and Broomfield. – This comprehensive response to the victims left homeless from the wildfire contrasts with the reaction to the epidemic of chronic homelessness across the country As of January 2020, there were nearly 600,000 people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. Following the expiration of the COVID-19 eviction moratorium, this number has certainly increased. Yet, despite sustained and, in some places, growing numbers of persons experiencing homelessness, there has been no community-wide outpouring of support, no newly established assistance centers, and no FEMA funding for housing assistance and recovery programs. In fact, with a few notable exceptions, most cities have responded to the homelessness crisis with punitive police sweeps, urban camping bans and ballot measures that further criminalize homelessness.
Denver must build more than 50,000 affordable homes a year to meet demand. The city’s largest affordable housing developer can build around 300.
The need for new housing for people making less than the area median income — which is $94,320 for a three-person family and $73,360 for a single person — is extreme. In Denver, the median home price was around $545,000 in December, and median rent is currently $1,798, according to Apartment List’s February rent report. The city and county of Denver is short more than 50,000 homes for people making 60% of the area median income or less, according to Denver Housing Authority executive director David Nisivoccia.
Are we in another housing bubble? (Paul Krugman)
With houses selling for so much, you’d think there would be a big incentive for developers to throw up new units, which they can do quite quickly. I still remember driving around New Jersey during the McMansion boom and being amazed. Why aren’t the developers rushing in now? In correspondence, my old Massachusetts Institute of Technology classmate and economist Charles Steindel pointed me to the likely answer: It’s the supply chain, stupid. Look at what is happening to the price of building materials. Put all this together, and the case for a bubble isn’t nearly as compelling as it was in 2005 or 2006. That doesn’t mean that all is well. Real estate people I know tell me that there’s still a feeling of unhealthy frenzy, and people who paid high prices for small-town houses may regret it once supply chains get unsnarled and more houses get built. But this time is different, even if some house prices are starting to look like the 2000s bubble. I wouldn’t say that everything is fine, but a housing bubble probably isn’t in my top 10 list of things to worry about.
RTD proposes massive overhaul: Fewer suburban buses, more service where riders remained during the pandemic
The Regional Transportation District is proposing a dramatic post-pandemic overhaul of its bus system that would focus service on places where passengers are still riding and permanently cut lines in locations where they aren’t. Ridership on RTD’s buses and trains has been slowly recovering over the last year but is still about half of pre-pandemic levels. The drop is most severe on lines that serve suburbs and suburb-to-downtown commuters, while lines that go through dense areas with low-income residents have stayed relatively steady.
Why micromobility is here to stay
If you could ride a bicycle, moped, or e-kickscooter to work, would you do so? Respondents in the Mobility Ownership Consumer Survey, conducted by the McKinsey Center for Future Mobility in July 2021, were enthusiastic about these options, with almost 70 percent stating that they were willing to use micromobility vehicles for their commute (exhibit).1 (Bicycles and mopeds could be traditional or electric.) These findings suggest that a growing number of workers may gravitate toward smaller, more environmentally friendly forms of transport as pandemic restrictions lift and offices reopen.
Big challenges ahead for RTD – Agency juggles fewer commuters, staffing woes, service questions
Train service, representing billions of dollars of investment, is not recovering as quickly. While less-commuter-heavy trains are performing relatively well, six of eight major train corridors that were open in late 2019 fell short of the bus recovery rate by at least 15%. Those low performers ranged from the B-Line, at 37% of 2019 ridership, to the R-Line, at nearly 48%. Those numbers leave RTD with difficult questions and no easy answers. How does the agency best serve a population that may never take trains so regularly to commute between the suburbs and downtown, while maintaining that expensive infrastructure? How does it serve a sizable corps of riders, often low-income service workers who depend heavily on its buses, as it struggles for enough workers to operate even its pandemic-reduced schedule? RTD initially trimmed service to about 60% of prior levels but has restored a small share of those cuts. – RTD has two major efforts underway to assess its system, a comprehensive fare study that could result in changes to its fare structure next year; and the “Reimagine RTD” initiative that produced the new short-term optimization proposal, which could bring better service to busy routes like the 31. Reimagine RTD also will create a longer-term plan for RTD’s future in coming months.
The Benefits of Converting Class C Office Into First Class Residential
In Detroit, the Shinola Hotel has been a significant catalyst for change. Transforming four buildings into a unified hospitality anchor in the city’s historic Woodward shopping district, the newly renovated hotel is credited with helping to revive the neighborhood; shops, cafes and restaurants have now sprung up around the hotel. Similarly, Kansas City has at least two dozen underperforming downtown buildings that have already been saved from ignominy through adaptive reuse, redevelopment, and repositioning. Another dozen are reliably in progress to become housing or hotels, with six to 10 more on the horizon.