Denver recently met a five-year affordable housing goal one year ahead of schedule, but the city still has a long way to go. Officials estimate that the city needs at least 21,000 more affordable units to meet current demand. With that gap in mind, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock recently announced a rent “buy-down” program, in which the city will purchase empty high-end apartments and then subsidize their rents for lower-income families making between 40 and 80 percent of the local median income.
The plan is for local corporations and foundations to help make up the difference, and the first corporate partner is already in place: Chipotle. The burrito chain will apparently be a so-called “employer partner” with the city, the Denver Post reports, meaning that some of the apartments will be given to its workers, as long as they meet the program’s income range.
The company reportedly has a target number for how many employee families it would like to enroll, but has declined to specify it yet. Comcast, the Anschutz Foundation and the Colorado Health Foundation are also considering participating, according to a fact sheet obtained by the Post. The city is hoping to raise $2 million for the program from public and private sources.
The goal is to help correct the Denver housing market’s off-kilter balance, which, like so many others, is weighted down by demand. The program, however, will only put what the Post calls “a small dent” in the city’s affordability crisis. Roughly 400 market-rate apartments are being considered for purchase. That’s only a fraction of the 21,000 needed.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.