Affordable housing still a growing problem in Metro Denver

Mayor Hancock's interview on affordable housing.

DENVER - Just how many people in the Metro Denver are having a hard time making monthly housing payments and need affordable housing?

9NEWS has learned from various organizations that it's nearly impossible to put an exact number to the need because there are many people who are currently sleeping on friends' sofas or teaming up with roommates until they can find a place to afford on their own.

"We do not have an accurate way of tracking, but our waiting lists for our properties give us an idea about the need," Archdiocesan Housing's Cathy Vannerson said. Archdiocesan Housing, an affiliate of Catholic Charities, has 24 properties in Colorado and Wyoming.

"Our buildings that house senior citizens have over 900 applications on waiting lists," Vannerson said. "For our family properties, there are over 1,000 people on the waiting list. We have more added each day."

Those figures are just from one of the dozens of agencies that place people in affordable housing.

"We've got some work to do," Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said. "The city's growth has come upon us very quickly."

Mayor Hancock says the city of Denver is constantly looking into how many "units" are needed to properly address the affordable housing issue.

Right now, Denver is facing a 30,000 unit nexus between supply and demand.

Mayor Michael Hancock predicts that if the city does not respond aggressively, that gap will only widen with the yearly population growth averaging between 7,500 and 10,000 new residents.

Hancock first announced a new plan last August. In early 2016, it's expected to go before the city council.

"We've identified a strategy to develop or at least to preserve $15 million a year... to devote $15 million ... to affordable housing," Hancock said. "Since I've been mayor, I've been devoting money from the General Fund to developing affordable housing ... not to the tune of $15 million, but it's been $2 million, $3 million, here and there so that we can acquire units."

Mayor Hancock took office in 2011 and since then, has realized the city can't deal with affordable housing alone. Over the years, a momentum has been building with public and private partnerships to provide the housing as well as grants to help with the costs.

"In 2013, I issued a challenge to the community: Let's create the "3x5." That's 3,000 units within five years. We're ahead of the trend in doing that. It also motivated the private sector to say 'hey, we'll be in this game with you ... we'll figure this out together,'" Hancock said.

The latest numbers from the National Association of Realtors show the median home price in the Denver-Aurora area is $338,100. The median rent sits at $1,359 a month.

The number of people who can't afford those prices will remain steady and maybe even increase for some time.

Richard Button, Interim Executive Director at Everett Real Estate Center at Colorado State University, says the affordable housing gap will continue well past 2020.

"Wages are relatively flat and housing costs are really skyrocketing," Button said. "We have very little expectation in the short run that wages will catch up and re-balance that ratio. It is concerning."

"From 2004 to 2014, wages have increased by about 27 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics," Denver Business Journal Real Estate Reporter Molly Armbrister said. "That's opposed to home prices, which from 2005 to 2015 have increased 91 percent in the metro area."

Denver Mayor Hancock recognizes there is no evident or easy fix.

"I keep saying it's a long term challenge that will need long terms solutions," Hancock said.

Watch Mayor Hancock's interview:

To read more about recent 9NEWS stories on the issue of affordable housing: www.9news.com/housing.

Saturday, Dec. 12, 9NEWS will air "A Place to Call Home" at 9:30 p.m. The half-hour program looks into the affordability gap and offers some possible solutions.

(© 2015 KUSA)


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