Mayor Proposes Ballot Measure to Expand Affordable Housing

Rendering of Chrysalis Affordable Housing project at 1777 Franklin Street in Denver, courtesy of Radix Design.

Mayor Mike Johnston has announced his plan for a new dedicated funding stream to provide approximately $100 million annually to make Denver more affordable for working families and individuals.  

Co-sponsored by Councilmembers Shontel Lewis, Sarah Parady, Diana Romero-Campbell, Amanda Sandoval and Darrell Watson, a proposed ballot measure to establish an Affordable Denver Fund is being introduced today to the Denver City Council. If passed by the council and placed on the November 2024 ballot, the measure would increase the current sales tax rate by 0.5%, or 5 cents on a $10 purchase, with exceptions made for food, fuel, medical supplies and personal hygiene products. The fund is projected to collect approximately $100 million annually to invest toward the creation and preservation of affordable housing opportunities citywide.

“Denver cannot be a vibrant, inclusive city without ensuring that teachers, nurses, first responders and seniors can continue to call Denver home,” said Mayor Mike Johnston. “There is a tremendous shortage of affordable homes for long-time residents and new residents alike, and this shortage will only grow if we don’t take action now. The Affordable Denver Fund provides a clear path to meet Denver’s affordability needs and establish a community where anyone can build a vibrant life here, especially the workers who are serving, caring for, and teaching the residents of this city.”

With current local and federal funding, Denver is on track to establish 19,000 affordable units by 2033.  Yet, new analysis shows that Denver will be short 44,000 affordable units during this same timespan for households earning less than 100 percent of the area median income. Simply put, additional funding is needed to address this 25,000-unit gap and to meet the needs of our community.

“During my time on Denver City Council, affordable housing has been a key topic for me and my community in Northwest Denver. I’ve seen firsthand how rising housing costs are making it impossible for future generations to live in Denver, which is why I am proud to be a council sponsor to get this important fund to pass,”said Council President Pro-Tem Amanda Sandoval. “One of Denver City Council’s budget goals for 2025 is to ensure the people of Denver are housed. This proposed affordable housing measure will help us meet that goal for Denverites.”  

The fund will deliver housing opportunities across the income spectrum, serving families in need of extremely low-cost housing to those pursuing homeownership, including housing for our extremely low-income, low-income, and middle-income earners. Investment strategies across the city will include:

  • Preservation of existing income-restricted homeownership units and rental units
  • New construction of multifamily rental opportunities
  • Accessory dwelling units for low/middle-income households
  • Permanent supportive housing, local project-based vouchers, and rental assistance for extremely low-income households
  • Equity investment to establish mixed-income city developments

“We can demonstrate to our country at large that we can be a growing, vibrant city that is still affordable to workers,” said Councilmember Shontel Lewis. “I’m excited about the new opportunity, the Affordable Denver fund, and the broad network of collaborative stakeholders we’ve assembled. Being open to bold, new plans like this will bring even more to the Mile High.  

“As Denver’s elected leaders, we have our opportunity to ensure that our families, working families, can afford to live, work, and recreate in the places that they love. The Affordable Denver fund will do just that,” said Councilmember Darrell Watson. “We are focused on speed-tracking this effort through council because we’ve talked for far too long about why affordability matters. Now is the time for action, and this fund is our tool to meet that goal.”

There currently is no sales tax in Denver dedicated solely to affordable housing. If passed, the Affordable Denver Fund would greatly complement the city’s existing Affordable Housing Fund, which generates over $40 million annually toward a much broader range of activities, including development, rent assistance, eviction legal defense, homeownership and foreclosure assistance, and other services. Denver voters also passed the Homelessness Resolution Fund in 2020, which provides approximately $50 million annually for shelter and services specifically for people experiencing and exiting homelessness.

“When half the people in our city are struggling from paycheck to paycheck, it has a significant impact on our communities, our civic life, and our democracy,” said Councilmember Sarah Parady. “The impacts on all of us are incredibly real, whether you are part of the half our city struggling to pay rent or you own a hope, I encourage everyone to vote yes in the fall.”  

“In my 25 years here in Denver, including a decade leading the Denver Housing Authority, the lack of affordable housing has never impacted so many people as it does today,” said Ismael Guerrero, President and CEO of Mercy Housing. “Our country needs to fund affordable housing at the scale that addresses the crisis, but we cannot rely solely on state and federal funding. Having meaningful, committed, and flexible local funding is just as important, which is why I’m proud to support the Affordable Denver fund.”  

An introductory presentation on the proposed fund is being provided today to the City Council’s Budget and Policy Committee. Policy refinement will continue prior to ballot language being introduced to the City Council’s Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee for consideration on July 17.

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