Homeless Sweeps (copy)

A Denver Fire Department official talks with a man during a sweep of a homeless encampment around the intersection of 14th Avenue and Logan Street.

The Denver City Council housing committee approved the city’s new five-year strategic plan to address homelessness Wednesday, moving the plan to the full council for a final vote.

The plan was put forward by the Department of Housing Stability with the intention of decreasing homelessness and increasing housing stability and affordability in Denver by the year 2026.

“We’re working toward a Denver where residents experience homelessness rarely and, if they do, it is brief and one time,” said Jennifer Biess with the department. “This plan will help create a Denver where residents have equitable access to housing options that meet their affordability needs.”

In 2021, there were approximately 5,530 homeless people living in shelters in the Denver metro area, according to an annual count. Another 1,185 people are unsheltered, according to estimates from the Department of Housing Stability.

From 2010 to 2017, the number of homeless residents in the Denver metro area was going down, dropping from 8,752 to 5,116, according to the counts. But since 2017, the population has grown steadily, reaching 6,104 in 2020. 

To address this, the five-year plan consists of 18 goals for the city to achieve by 2026, as well as some strategies and tactics to achieve the goals:

Homeless resolution

  • Reduce unsheltered homelessness by 50% from the 2022 count to the 2026 count.
  • Increase the annual number of households served in rehousing and supportive housing programs from 1,800 to 3,000.
  • Measurably end veteran homelessness by placing at least as many veterans into permanent housing each month as there are veterans experiencing homelessness.
  • Increase the percentage of sheltered households who exit to housing from 30% to 40%.
  • Increase the percentage of households who exit shelter and outreach programs to housing from 25% to 50%.
  • Reduce the average length of time residents experience homelessness to 90 days.

Housing opportunity

  • Increase the portion of income-restricted homes in Denver from 7% to 8% by creating and preserving 7,000 homes, including 900 supportive housing apartments.
  • Reduce the rate of housing cost-burden among low- and moderate-income households from 59% to 51%.
  • Preserve at least 950 apartments in income-restricted rental properties and for-sale homes.
  • Increase the homeownership rate among low- and moderate-income households from 36% to 41% and among households of color from 41% to 45%.

Housing stability

  • Reduce the number of evictions filed by 25% from 8,800 to 6,600 annually.
  • Support policy to prioritize residents who are at risk of or who have been displaced for newly developed affordable housing.
  • Establish future goals in 2022 for measures like foreclosures among income-restricted units and household mobility.

Operational support

  • Improve communications channels by aligning them with community need and measuring their effectiveness based on a 2022 baseline survey.
  • Reduce the average length of time from conditional approval to fully executed contract to under 60 days for program contracts under $500,000, under 75 days for program contracts above $500,000 and under 90 days for development contracts.
  • Reduce average procurement decision time from 47 days to 30 days.
  • Reduce average invoice processing time from 21 days to 7 days.
  • Increase percentage of respondents to community and stakeholder feedback, including the creation of publicly available finance and performance dashboards.

During Wednesday’s meeting, council members raised concerns that the plan might be too broad and far-reaching. Councilwoman Robin Kniech specifically questioned how the plan would target residents in specific household income brackets.

“I worry about how we will be doing that in such a long plan, it tries to do so many things," Kniech said. “That’s my struggle. It’s not an issue with any detail in the plan, it’s a little bit about the forest versus the trees and how we do that in a transparent way.”

Council members Jamie Torres and Paul Kashmann also requested the plan include more specifics about the city’s future intentions regarding mobile home communities and the Social Impact Bond Program.

Despite concerns, the committee unanimously passed the plan to the full council to consider in November. This five-year plan would replace the city’s existing three-year Strategic Shelter Plan and the Housing Inclusive Denver Plan, according to the Department of Housing Stability.

The Department of Housing Stability also intends to release a 2022 action plan which is currently in development. The 2022 plan will be released for public comment in November. It will not require council approval.

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