Pilot Program Launches to Support Sustainability and Affordable Housing

EPA Green Roof
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) green roof serves as a a hallmark of environmental sustainability in downtown Denver.

“With our economic recovery, we need to remove barriers holding back our residents from the prosperity they’ve earned,” Mayor Hancock said. “We have an economy to rebuild, and we need to do it with more opportunity for the people of our city. This pilot shows where our priorities are.”

The pilot will test the feasibility of offering incentives, like reductions in permitting fees, to support development projects that align with the community’s vision of a more inclusive, connected and healthy Denver. Projects that agree to build 100 percent affordable housing or that voluntarily apply the concepts and principles of the Denver Green Code, including using significantly less energy, less water, and sustainable materials (among other approaches), may be eligible for this program.

“New construction projects are having to scrutinize their budgets as a result of the pandemic and subsequent economic downturn,” said Laura E. Aldrete, executive director of CPD. “Our goal with this pilot program is to identify ways we can help support critical projects that share our priorities of providing deep affordability as well as taking action to address climate change.”

Denver Green Code Projects

The Denver Green Code is a voluntary building code adopted in the City and County of Denver in December 2019. Community Planning and Development will identify five major commercial projects on a first committed with a signed Memorandum of Understanding/first admitted to the program basis. To be considered, projects must choose one of four paths: comply with the provisions of the Denver Green Code as written, achieve Platinum Certification using version 4.1 or later of the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, achieve Zero Net Energy, or achieve Passive House certification plus comply with the provisions of all non-energy chapters of the Denver Green Code as written.

“The City and County of Denver is looking at numerous ways to positively impact climate change, and the adoption of the Denver Green Code puts Denver at the forefront of sustainable design and building across the nation,” said Scott Prisco, Denver’s building official.

Affordable Housing Projects

Denver has an immediate need for housing, and the city has made it a priority to address that need by working to make more options available for everybody. Denver’s Department of Housing Stability (HOST) will identify five 100 percent affordable housing projects to be part of this pilot program. Preferred projects will provide housing in neighborhoods with access to transportation, high-quality education, proximity to good paying jobs, parks, libraries, recreation centers, childcare, health care, and grocery stores.

“Affordable housing is a crucial component of a thriving, diverse community,” said Britta Fisher, executive director of HOST. “This pilot program offers another strategy to encourage developers to build more and better housing opportunities for Denver residents.”

The city recognizes the overwhelming economic strain the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on everyone, including development projects in Denver. The pilot program will explore the feasibility of supporting these much-needed affordable housing and sustainable built projects by providing incentives that could include a fee reduction, an enhanced site development plan process which will reduce the overall number of required submittals and associated review cycles, and dedicated resources to expedite reviews of construction plans.

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