Last year, Denver City Council approved a controversial plan to raise $150 million over the next 10 years for affordable housing. Now, as some estimates put the city’s need at around 21,000 more units (and even Chipotle has stepped in to help out with the crisis), some elected leaders are saying $150 million isn’t enough.
At a housing and safety committee meeting this week, two council members suggested that the city could use more funds, Denverite reports.
“If we had another $100 million, we’d be able spend it and build and deliver affordable units in Denver,” Council President Albus Brooks asked, reportedly looking toward city staff to get confirmation. They “assured him that Denver could spend much more money and still fall short of solving the housing crisis,” according to the news source.
But Brooks and Councilwoman Debbie Ortega have different ideas about where the money’s going to come from.
Ortega wants the city to consider going to voters and asking for permission to take on new debt. …
Brooks is skeptical of going to voters for new bonds. Instead, he thinks that the city could free up $40 [million] to $50 million over the next decade by refinancing old debt. That would not require voter approval, he said. The city could use the extra money to pay developers to make market-rate units available at more affordable rates, he said.
The city is already preparing to ask voters whether it can take on $937 million in new debt later this year, and more than half of that would go toward transportation, with none for housing.
Affordability woes are, of course, common in many major urban areas these days, and leaders are showing an increased tolerance for taking on debt as a solution. As Next City covered earlier this year, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry proposed a plan in May to issue $25 million in general obligation bonds to purchase and rehabilitate existing multifamily rental stock as a way to preserve affordable units.
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.