Home / World News / Affordable housing isn’t just an urban issue — suburban planners are facing it, too – The Denver Post

Affordable housing isn’t just an urban issue — suburban planners are facing it, too – The Denver Post

The redevelopment of the former Westminster Mall has been billed as an opportunity to redefine suburban America. A piece of that renewal attacks a growing problem across the Denver metro area: the scarcity of affordable housing.

To that end, at least 118 apartments at the heart of the marquee site will be open to people making anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of the area median income.

They will be among more than 600 affordable housing units in Westminster that have been proposed, are planned or are under construction — other suburban communities are making similar efforts — as home values and rental prices continue to spike in Denver.

“Westminster is being very forward-thinking — advancing workforce and affordable housing has been a high priority for the City Council,” said Jenni Grafton, senior economic development officer for Westminster. “But while it’s important that every municipality takes action at the local level, we have to take a regional approach to the problem.”

While much of the focus of affordable housing conversation has been on Denver — the city established a 10-year, $150 million affordable housing fund — the issue is widespread. According to the Colorado Division of Housing, more than 272,000 low-income Coloradans are spending more than half their income on housing. And more than $102 million in state funding has gone into developing affordable housing since 2010.

Adams County has become a magnet for many young families priced out of Denver, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau data. In October, Commerce City announced the groundbreaking of a 216-unit affordable housing project, dubbed North Range Crossings, which will be open to tenants making $33,660 a year — or 60 percent of the area median income. The City Council approved incentives to the developer in the form of waived fees and tax breaks.

In Lakewood, the 40 West Residences opened its 60 affordable units in October, with 25 of those homes reserved for homeless veterans.

Other suburban cities are taking different approaches to addressing the metro area’s housing crunch. Englewood has been studying the idea of allowing accessory dwelling units — mother-in-law-style apartments or backyard garden cottages — to serve as compact homes for people. Castle Rock leaders on Tuesday will vote on a first reading of an ordinance allowing ADUs to be built in the Douglas County town.

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