January 31, 2023

Imagine a Denver where teachers can afford to buy homes near the schools where they teach.

Imagine a Denver where new residents and working families can afford to own a home and where long-time residents can afford to age in community.

Imagine a Denver with clean air and a transportation system that allows us to go places without being stuck in traffic. Imagine a Denver where people of all ages, identities and zip codes enjoy a great quality of life.

2023 will bring further challenges to this vision, but there is an opportunity if we think differently about housing and transport.

Denver is growing and changing. The problems we face are real, including rising housing costs, gentrification and displacement, homelessness, road deaths and injuries. This spring, when Denver residents go to the polls, we will elect a new mayor and city council members. It’s time for bold leadership, ready to implement solutions that will lead us to a more inclusive city where all residents can thrive.

Our future leadership has the power to enact policies that will make Denver a better place to live. We need more accessible housing and transportation options. Many desirable neighborhoods are not accessible to an average earner, and there is opportunity for diversification of housing options.

This could be achieved by creating income-restricted, accessible, “soft density” infill in all neighborhoods, particularly near schools and within a mile of bus services. This type of development includes small-scale infills consisting of townhouses and multi-family homes that have historically been present in many Denver neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill.

Denver made great strides implementing the Expanding Housing Affordability program, which will create more rental housing in areas designated for high-density development. Now is the time to expand the program to the rest of Denver and create affordable homeownership options for Denverans in neighborhoods with good schools, parks, and access to employment, transportation and other opportunities.

As we expand the housing affordability program to address home ownership, we also have an opportunity to improve the quality of neighborhood design. Too often new developments have become synonymous with large, boxy structures that stand out from the surrounding context, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Cities have the ability to create “pattern zoning” that establishes predictable design outcomes consistent with community character and vision. Pre-approved concept plans created through a community engagement process are then free for developers to use.

The plans would expedite the building permit approval process and produce designs that are scaled to the neighborhoods. This approach allows us to create more living space, make housing more affordable, and respect traditional Denver architecture by creating a public-facing library of plans for additional housing units, stacked apartments, and townhomes.

We can also think differently about transport. Denver has a rich public transportation tradition that has shaped our city; Our beloved neighborhoods were born on a tram network. As Denver grows, it’s time to give Denver residents more than a car to drive.

The 2019 Denver Moves Transit Plan established a strategy to make transit a more practical and attractive alternative. More frequent – ​​and more reliable – bus services can be a better choice than being stuck in traffic. The city can allocate lanes for buses to run on schedule without competing with traffic, and can buy additional services from RTD to increase frequency.

Fewer cars will make our roads safer and improve our air quality. The new city leadership has a great opportunity and responsibility to implement the adopted plans and provide a transportation system that our growing city needs.

As we look to 2023 and beyond, let’s make resolutions to become a city that is inclusive, affordable and accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds. To that end, we need ample housing for people of all income levels and transportation that supports this diversity.

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