Generally speaking, the Denver Zoning Code breaks residential uses down into two use categories: Household Living and Group Living. These categories and their specific included uses are defined in the Use Definitions section of the Denver Zoning Code: Division 11.2.
Household Living is defined in Sec. 22.214.171.124 and includes:
- Single-Unit Dwellings: a single dwelling unit in a single structure, such as a detached house
- Two-Unit Dwellings: two dwelling units contained in a single structure, such as a duplex
- Multi-Unit Dwellings: three or more dwelling units contained in a single structure, such as an apartment building
- Live/Work Dwelling: a combination of residential and commercial activity located within a dwelling unit. Live/Work Dwellings permit commercial activity as a primary use, alongside the residential use – this is in contrast with the limited Home Occupations that are regulated as accessory uses and permitted in other types of Dwelling Units.
Household Living uses limit the number of unrelated individuals that may occupy the dwelling units described above. In a Two-Unit or Multi-Unit dwelling, four unrelated adults and any number of relatives to each may occupy each unit. In a Single-Unit dwelling, the Zoning Code currently permits the following combinations of residents:
- A single person, plus any number of relatives
- A “husband and wife,” plus any number of relatives to either
- Two unrelated adults over the age of 18, plus any number of relatives to either
The code specifically lists allowable relatives, which generally include parents and grandparents, children and step-children, siblings and step-siblings, in-laws, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews.
Group Living is defined in Sec. 126.96.36.199 and includes:
- Assisted Living Facilities: A residential structure licensed by the state that houses more than 8 adults with 24-hour non-medical supervision. Examples include homes for people with disabilities and the elderly who require assistance with daily tasks like bathing and dressing.
- Community Corrections Facilities: Residential structures for three or more persons who have been placed in a community corrections program by city, state or federal judicial or correctional departments. Residents of these facilities are often transitioning from incarceration back into society.
- Nursing Homes and Hospices: State-licensed establishments that provide 24-hour skilled nursing care.
- Residence for Older Adults: Single- or multi-unit dwellings that house unrelated, mobile persons 55 years or older, in excess of the number of persons permitted per dwelling unit . Such facilities do not require 24-hour supervision, and residents typically receive fewer services than what would be delivered in an Assisted Living Facility.
- Rooming and Boarding House: A residential structure containing one or more guest bedrooms that are rented for permanent occupancy. Meals may or may not be provided, but cooking facilities are not provided in individual rooms.
- Student Housing: A structure related to a college, university or seminary with common cooking facilities and gathering rooms. These can include dormitories and recognized fraternities and sororities.
- Transitional Housing: A residential structure that houses unrelated persons in excess of the number permitted per dwelling unit, where occupancy is more than 30 days but less than 2 years and is intended to help residents transition to permanent housing. Transitional Housing is often a first step out of homelessness.
- Special Care Home: A residential structure that houses unrelated persons in excess of the number of persons permitted per dwelling unit that provides more than 12 hours per day of treatment or care to address mental illness, behavioral problems (such as addiction) or other conditions.
- Shelter for the Homeless: A facility that provides overnight sleeping accommodations for people experiencing homelessness.
- Safe House: A residential structure that provides a refuge from dangerous social situations or abuse. Note: Safe Houses are unique in the Group Living category in that they are permitted in any zone district that allows Multi-Unit Dwelling uses.
Large and Small Residential Care Uses
Large and Small Residential Care Uses: Transitional Housing, Shelter for the Homeless, Community Corrections Facility and Special Care homes are considered Residential Care Uses. Each one is subject to special use limitations (see “How these uses are regulated,” below).
Transitional and Special Care housing uses are further broken down by size:
- “Large” = facilities serving 9 or more persons
- “Small” = facilities serving 8 or fewer persons
Shelters for the Homeless and Community Corrections uses are always considered Large Residential Care uses, regardless of the number of occupants.
How these uses are regulated
These uses are regulated based on the definitions described above and in several other parts of the Zoning Code.
Use Tables: Residential uses listed above appear in the "Use Table " for each of the Zoning Code’s Neighborhood Contexts. The Use Table shows where each defined use is permitted by zone district, and it identifies the required zoning procedure for each use. Zoning procedures may require an applicant to obtain a zoning permit, a zoning permit with public notice, or a Zoning Permit with Special Exception Review, which is reviewed by the city’s Board of Adjustments and may be subject to special conditions to limit potential negative impacts.
- Note: Special Care and Transitional Housing facilities are listed under Residential Care Uses, and are not individually named. Safe Houses are regulated as multi-unit dwellings.
Use Limitations: Each Neighborhood Context Use Table has a column listing any Use Limitations associated with uses permitted in that district. Use limitations are included in Article 11 of the zoning code, and limitations for the Group Living use category begin in Section 11.2.6 .
Residential Care Uses (Large and Small), especially Shelters for the Homeless and Community Corrections Facilities, are subject to the most stringent requirements. Limitations on Residential Care Facilities are intended to balance several issues:
- Need for humane, equitable housing for special populations,
- Compliance with federal and state fair housing regulations,
- Prevention of Residential Care use concentration in neighborhoods, and
- Effective regulation and communication processes to help ensure such facilities are good neighbors.
Use limitations vary extensively by zone district and are difficult to summarize. Key examples are highlighted below.
- Designated Contact Person: Operators of Residential Care uses are required to designate a staff person to address questions and concerns from neighbors.
- Spacing and Density Limitations: Large Residential Care Facilities are not permitted within 2,000 feet of other such uses, and no more than two others may exist within a 4,000-foot radius of the proposed new use. In Impacted Neighborhoods, up to 200 feet of additional spacing may be required by the Zoning Administrator. (Impacted Neighborhoods are those neighborhoods with more than the city-wide average number of Residential Care Uses within their boundaries.)
Shelter and Community Corrections uses are subject to the most stringent requirements. For example, Community Corrections facilities are not permitted within 1,500 of a school or within 1,500 feet of a Residential Zone District.
- Special requirements for Shelters for the Homeless: Some Large Residential Care uses, such as Shelters for the Homeless, have additional use limitations that vary by operator or other criteria. In Sec. 188.8.131.52, the zoning code establishes three types of shelter uses:
- Shelter for the Homeless as a permanent, primary use
- Shelter for the Homeless as a primary or accessory use when operated by a place of religious assembly (such as a church)
- Shelter for the Homeless when operated in a building owned by a nonprofit corporation or by a government entity
Permanent shelters as a primary use are permitted in higher-intensity mixed-use zone districts, industrial districts and others that are not solely residential. Permanent shelters are subject to the Use Limitations for Large Residential Care Facilities as described above and in Sec. 11.2.8. They also must meet special requirements for operations, including but not limited to mitigating the impact of waiting areas on adjacent public rights-of-way (preventing obstruction, etc.) and making restroom facilities available when the facility is closed.
The Zoning Code provides more flexible options for shelter uses that are operated by a religious assembly. These include, but are not limited to, permission to operate in any zone district and looser restrictions on bed counts for shelters that operate for 120 days or less per year.
Similarly, shelters operated by a government entity or nonprofit corporation, in which the Denver Department of Human Services plays some role in the operation, are also permitted in any zone district provided certain requirements for public notice and involvement have been met.
- Limitations on the Number of Residents: The Zoning Code’s Use Limitations limit the number of clients served by Residential Care facilities based on size, applicable zone district, etc. Shelters for the Homeless and Community Corrections Facilities are subject to the most stringent requirements. For example:
Community Corrections Facilities are permitted in the I-MX zone district but are not permitted to exceed 40 residents, and they must provide 50 feet of gross floor area per person served. In the I-A and I-B zone districts, Community Corrections Facilities are permitted to have higher numbers of residents.
Shelters for the Homeless established as permanent, primary uses are not permitted to have more than 200 beds, though some shelters with permits issued prior to Jan. 1, 2005, may have up to 350 beds. No more than 950 beds are permitted in any one city council district in homeless shelters that are permanent, primary uses.