Prosper CO Hosts Discussion on Housing Affordability

Downtown Denver

On Tuesday May 4, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and JP Morgan Chase hosted elected officials, housing experts and business leaders for Prosper CO: A Conversation on Allowing Duplexes in Single-Family Zoning with Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. The discussion focused on Minneapolis’ 2018 decision to allow for the construction of duplexes and triplexes in areas previously zoned for single-family construction.

Prosper CO, an affiliate of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, is committed to researching and developing strategies to remove barriers to economic mobility in the Denver metro area. Prosper’s research identified housing as a key barrier for Denver residents. The organization surveyed and interviewed hundreds of community members, business leaders and public officials, and 94% of employers identified the cost of housing as the greatest challenge to our region’s workforce. A recent survey from Magellan found 73% of Colorado voters surveyed say the cost of housing is unaffordable. Homeownership is also one of the key avenues to build wealth in the United States.

Denver Metro Chamber President and CEO Kelly Brough moderated the discussion. “In our research, it was clear that the cost of land is the main driver of high housing prices in our region,” said Brough. “Fewer than 50% of Black Coloradans and 54% of Hispanics or Latinx own their homes, compared to 75% of white Coloradans. This is a huge concern when you are trying to retain the most talented workforce in the nation.”

Changes to single-family zoning may be one tool in the toolkit to increase housing affordability. In 2018, Minneapolis made the decision to allow duplexes and triplexes in areas previously zoned for single-family construction, Mayor Frey and Mogush told attendees. Initially, Minneapolis had not set out with the goal of eliminating single-family zoning and were completing a legally mandated update to their city’s comprehensive plan with a focus on racial equity. Previously, over 50% of Minneapolis had been zoned for single-family housing.

“Just like in cities all across Colorado and the rest of the United States, a whole lot of people want to live in Minneapolis right now,” said Mayor Frey. “We’re proud of that. But we don’t have the supply to accommodate that demand. When you have demand that is sky-high, and you don’t have the supply to keep up with it, rents rise, people are displaced, and these impacts are disproportionately felt by our neighbors of color.”

The City of Minneapolis engaged the community over two years to learn about the difficulties residents experienced in finding affordable housing, understand what they want to see from housing in the city and incorporate suggestions into policy.

“The community engagement aspect of our efforts was key,” added Mogush. “Individuals shared personal stories about their inability to locate affordable housing. I would not have believed it if five years ago you had told me that this type of personal connection and engagement would have taken place.”

Permitting duplexes and triplexes in single-family zoning has increased housing throughout the city. However, Minneapolis has not seen drastic changes to neighborhoods. Instead, the changes have created a diversity of housing options and a diversity of residents throughout the city.

Housing is just one of the strategies that Prosper CO has identified to remove barriers to economic mobility in our region. Advancing housing affordability will require a multi-faceted approach, and Prosper CO is dedicated to continuing to facilitate the conversation and identify solutions for how elected officials, business leaders and housing experts can collaborate to address this issue.

Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver, Otten Johnson Robinson Neff + Ragonetti PC, Zillow and the Colorado Association of REALTORS sponsored the event.

Kendee Ruark, senior lending manager at JP Morgan Chase, and Heather Lafferty, CEO and executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver, both offered opening remarks. Brian Connolly, land use planner and attorney with Otten Johnson Robinson Neff + Ragonetti PC, also spoke at the event.


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