Denver mayor candidates’ stances on the lack of affordable housing

The Denver Post sent a questionnaire to candidates in the April 4 Denver municipal election. Answers are lightly edited and ordered alphabetically by candidate’s last name. Following are mayoral candidates’ answers to the question:

What should Denver leaders do to address the city’s lack of affordable housing?

Renate Behrens
Empty big buildings and turn into apartments and mother-in-law suites to single family buildings. Employers have to provide housing, at least for the homeless working population.

Kelly Brough
We need housing solutions that benefit people across the income spectrum, particularly the “missing middle” who earn too much to qualify for most public assistance but struggle to make ends meet. My plans to ensure more housing – for rent and sale, market-rate and subsidized – include:

– Building more housing on underutilized, publicly owned land and rethinking and revitalizing downtown and surrounding neighborhoods by converting commercial space to residential.
– Increasing density on major transportation corridors and at transit stations and working with neighborhood groups to find appropriate approaches for their communities.
– Fundamentally restructuring how development is reviewed and regulated in Denver.

RELATED: Rents doubled in Denver during Hancock’s tenure. What can the next mayor do to make housing more affordable?

Lisa Calderón
I would:

– Repurpose brown and grey space to introduce dense, affordable, and social housing
– Strengthen tenants’ rights through just eviction law and providing an option for tenants to buy their buildings
– Support preferential zoning to community land trusts, which prioritize the needs of residents while generating wealth
– Include community members in new development planning by implementing participant-public-private partnerships
– Create inclusionary zoning that requires new development to offer housing to low- and moderate-income families at or below 50% average monthly income.
– Eliminate the red tape around permits that slows homeowners and builders from completing projects

Al Gardner
What leadership needs to do first is have consensus that there is a lack of affordable housing and that the situation deserves attention and action. The city must work with the legislature, governor’s office, public and private sector on creating long-term funding pipelines and affordable housing development targets.

Chris Hansen
In short, we must quickly build more housing along transit corridors. Every Denverite’s day-to-day experience is inextricably dependent on how they get from where they live to where they’re going. Denver housing has been shaped by siloed zoning, delayed permitting and developed without taking advantage of the benefits of close coordination with transit development. As a result, we have dispersed development and insufficient transit options. We need systemic solutions to realize the benefits of combined housing and multimodal transit: an interconnected and easily traversable city with tens of thousands of additional housing units.

Leslie Herod
Safe, healthy, accessible, affordable housing is a human right, yet a home has become a luxury many in Denver cannot afford. We need diverse housing options to reduce costs while ensuring people can afford to live in the neighborhood they grew up in. Last year, I led the creation of the Colorado Middle Income Housing Authority that will deliver thousands of attainable housing units for families. As mayor, I will fight for resources to create truly affordable housing and end chronic homelessness; zoning reforms to prioritize fair housing; protections to stabilize tenants; and ways to expand permanent affordability.

Mike Johnston
I spent the last two years building a coalition of 260 organizations to support passage of Proposition 123, which will provide Denver with $50 million a year to solve this problem. Here is how I will do it:
1) build 25,000 permanently affordable units where no Denverite will pay more than 30% of their income to rent and rent can’t go up unless your income goes up;
2) eliminate the red tape that slows housing development by requiring that affordable housing permits get approved within 90 days;
3) help renters build wealth and buy homes by directing up to $100 a month of their rent check into a savings account;
4) expand the Dearfield Down Payment Assistance Program.

Aurelio Martinez
Our administration will put together bona fide programs such as down payment assistance that will not work against the applicant and their debt-to-income ratio. This can be done by providing down payment assistance loans that will not become due until the mortgage loan is paid for or the home is sold. Our administration will also put together educational courses on how to raise their FICA scores, making qualifying for a home loan a strong possibility.

Deborah “Debbie” Ortega
The EHA program created by City Council begins to address this by expediting permits for affordable units, but more work is required to fix Denver’s broken permitting process so that affordable housing can be brought online more efficiently. Additionally, we need to invest more strategically in alternative housing, including modular homes, repurposing vacant units and/or commercial buildings, and ADUs. We should also identify vacant public lands for manufactured housing at 40% cheaper than on-site new construction. Last, the housing demand of our senior population is growing and we need to look ahead to prevent them from falling into homelessness.

Terrance Roberts
More public/social housing is now needed in Denver; our city is only continuing to grow. ‘Affordable housing’ is owned by developers, and it’s only a percentage of what they build. There are nearly 20,000 “affordable housing” units available in the metro area. Public housing is owned and maintained by the city and its tax-paying constituents. A public banking system needs to be implemented in Denver

Trinidad Rodriguez
While working in finance and volunteering with local civic groups, I’ve helped expand affordable housing.

There are numerous components of our affordable housing shortage, all supply-related given the overwhelming demand for living here. I’ll focus on strategies to:

– Grow total supply through affordability planning.
– Expand the diversity of supply, particularly in the “missing middle” units that rely on low-medium and medium density, particularly in transit corridors throughout the city.
– Accelerate the development of affordable housing of all types by granting permitting and other administrative advantages.
– Expand coordination throughout the metro area given that housing is a regional market.

Andy Rougeot
Blue collar workers, first-time homebuyers, and young families can’t afford to live in our city. To make housing more affordable, I will fix a broken permitting department, eliminate regulations that are blocking affordable housing, and get corruption and money out of the zoning process.

Kwame Spearman
Every Denverite deserves to have a home that meets their needs. Safe, stable, and affordable housing is the foundation for every individual’s and family’s success. Our housing isn’t just about buildings; it’s about who lives in them — and that means housing is about all of us. We need a dedicated program focused on workforce housing. If you are a teacher, a nurse, a bookseller, a police officer, a firefighter, you can no longer live here. As the son of a teacher, that’s absolutely unacceptable.

We need to look at places like Vienna, Austria, that has aggressively and successfully built workforce housing with principles that would work right here in Denver. In short, Vienna takes vacant land and incentivizes development that supports the adjacent community, similar to our neighborhoods.

Ean Tafoya
As a fourth-generation Denverite, I know our leaders need to stop prioritizing corporate developers and start prioritizing everyday people. We need to make sure people can stay in the homes they already have by pushing rent control, a vacancy tax and tenant protections. Then we build more transitional housing and lower-income housing that’s affordable for working families, the disabled and the elderly. I have decades of experience fighting to require developments to have high percentages of low-income family housing, for inclusionary zoning and for community land trusts. I will continue that fight.

Robert Treta
The city causes housing to be unnecessarily unaffordable. Builders’ cost on waiting on permits gets passed on to the consumer. Expensive and unnecessary building regulations that get passed on to consumer. Illegal Airbnbs for years drove rents up. City did nothing for 6 years. Denver only zoned the city in certain areas for ADUs. City should have been zoned entirely for ADU. Would have kept costs down by increased density. I will revamp the building department right away. Permits that take a year will now take one day.

James Walsh
Solving affordable housing means helping those directly who survive on low wage work. I would push for a minimum wage that is a living wage, for an expanded Universal Basic Income program, for publicly supported worker centers that serve immigrant workers, and policies that make it easier for public employees to unionize and engage in collective bargaining.

I would also advocate for the use of city-owned property to be used for social housing development, doing whatever is necessary to get unhoused people into decent, permanent housing and to ensure that they can stay there.

Thomas Wolf
The big picture is demand exceeding supply. A couple smaller fixable issues are the state needs to address the length of time builders are liable for construction defects and our city needs to expedite P&Z, building and fire reviews to lower costs. I also think there is an opportunity with the city balance sheet to assist credit worthy renters into home ownership and equity creation, which is a double win because it frees up a rental unit. I have a plan to broaden access to affordable health insurance, which should improve citizens’ budgets for housing.

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