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Denver City Council allows developers to build higher in exchange for affordable housing

The overall goal is to increase density and affordable housing near mass transit, in this case the 38th and Blake A-Line commuter rail station.

Denver City Council approved a measure that will allow developers to build up to 16 stories in certain parts of the River North (RiNo) neighborhood in exchange for contributions to affordable housing. Only Councilman Paul Lopez voted against the measure.

Council President Albus Brooks says the city has been talking with the community for two years to get to the vote Monday night. The overall goal is to increase density and affordable housing near mass transit, in this case the 38th and Blake A-Line commuter rail station.

“I think it is scary for folks that live in this urban environment saying, ‘Sixteen stories!’ but I always tell folks, restricting height actually adds demand and makes it more expensive and adds gentrification,” Brooks said. “Actually, when you increase supply, that’s when it brings down the cost. So that’s our philosophy and that’s what we’re working on.”

Developers have three options if they want to build higher than ever before. They can build a certain number of affordable units based on how tall their buildings are. Developers also have the option to include commercial developments in their projects that serve the community, like day cares or grocery stores. Their final option would be to pay an affordable housing fee that's five times that of developments elsewhere in the city.

But some doubt the incentives will actually work out financially. Others don't believe the amount of affordable housing will make up for the number of people being pushed out by pricey development. Others also have concerns about the ever-changing Denver landscape.

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“I think the whole city is getting out of control with the way it’s building. We don’t have a housing shortage, we have an affordable housing shortage,” said Denver resident Elyse Gordon. “Developers, if they have deep pockets, they buy their way out of affordable housing,” she said, explaining that she has experience in property development. “We are so worried about people moving in. are we not worried about people who live here? And grew up here? They deserve to have housing in the neighborhoods they live in. they should not be forced out by higher homes, higher density. We don’t need it! We just plain don’t need it!”

Brooks points to San Francisco’s housing costs saying their restrictions on building up has maxed out demand and driven up prices over time.

“We’re saying, no, especially at public transit, we want our heights to be a little higher and we want to make sure we have housing options. We want to make sure people park their car, get out of it, bike, walk things like that,” Brooks said.

Brooks tells 9NEWS that he and Mayor Hancock signed the measure on Tuesday, and it will go into effect in two months.

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