Expanding Housing Affordability Ordinance and Affordable Housing Fee

Overview

You may notice this page looks different! When the Expanding Housing Affordability (EHA) ordinance became effective on July 1, 2022, it updated the affordable housing linkage fee (established in 2017 for many development types) and created new affordable housing requirements for developments of 10 or more new dwelling units.

As of July 1, 2022, all application projects will be prompted in e-permits to demonstrate how they meet the requirements of Denver’s Expanding Housing Affordability ordinance. 

About the EHA Ordinance

The Expanding Housing Affordability ordinance will create more affordable housing options for our workforce as well as increase funding for Denver’s Affordable Housing Fund. There are three core elements: 

  1. Requiring new residential development of 10 units or more to designate 8% to 12% of the units as affordable, regardless of whether the home is for rent or for sale. In higher-cost areas of the city, such as downtown, developers will need to provide 2% to 3% more affordable units. This will provide much-needed new workforce housing options in Denver. 
    • To align with state law, which requires alternatives to this requirement, the policy includes an option to pay a fee-in-lieu of the affordable units. This fee ranges from $250,000 to $478,000 depending on the unit type and market area.
    • The policy also allows for negotiated and community-driven housing agreements in certain situations.
  2. Gradually increasing the “linkage fee,” which is a fee on new development used to build affordable housing for people with lower incomes. It is not assessed on development that provides affordable housing. The increase will provide much-needed funding for new homes and will bring Denver more in line with other cities nationally.
  3. Offering zoning and financial incentives, such as flexible parking requirements, height incentives, and permit fee reductions, to help offset the cost of building affordable units and increase the overall supply of housing.

Read about the history of the Expanding Housing Affordability ordinance >>


Complying with the EHA Ordinance

Residential developments of 10 units or more may fulfill the ordinance requirements by:

  • Building affordable housing on-site, either at baseline requirements with associated incentives, or meet the enhanced requirements that provide enhanced incentives
  • Paying a fee-in-lieu
  • Negotiating an alternative
  • Fulfilling High-Impact Development requirements (if your project qualifies as High-Impact Development, you must select that option in your application)

All other development types are required to pay the updated linkage fee. Please note that mixed-use developments that include 10 or more residential units must meet the mandatory affordable housing requirement for the residential portion and pay the linkage fee for the non-residential portion. 

Linkage Fee - Starting July 1, 2022

The linkage fee went into effect in 2017 as one funding source of a dedicated affordable housing fund in Denver. The affordable housing fund is used to create and preserve thousands of affordable homes for low-to-moderate income families. The Expanding Housing Affordability ordinance became effective July 1, 2022 and increases linkage fees for non-residential development and residential development of 9 or fewer units. For mixed-use buildings containing 10 or more dwelling units, the non-residential portion of the building must pay the linkage fee unless it is a ground-floor commercial, sale, or service use that is eligible for an exception per the incentives or is eligible for another exception.  

To find out if your project is exempt from the Expanding Housing Affordability ordinance's updated linkage fee schedule, view the ordinance's effective dates. If your project is exempt, proceed to this page

Linkage fees are due prior to issuance of a building permit, except in cases of excavation and shoring.  

Fee schedule

Updated July 2022

  • The affordable housing fee is assessed alongside standard permit fees, all of which are due in full before building permits will be issued. 
  • The Expanding Housing Affordability ordinance updated the linkage fee schedule, which will increase over the course of four years. The fee schedule can be viewed below. Annually, linkage fees are adjusted for inflation in an amount equal to the percentage change from the previous year in the national Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U).
  • Exceptions to the linkage fee exist for certain developments. Please see the exceptions list.
  • For mixed-use buildings containing 10 or more dwelling units, the non-residential portion of the building must pay the linkage fee unless it is a ground-floor commercial, sale or service use that is eligible for an exception per the incentives or is eligible for another exception.

Current Fee Schedule

Project Type Fee per square foot, Effective 7/1/22 Effective 7/1/23 Effective 7/1/24 Effective 7/1/25
Single Unit, Two Unit, or Multi Unit of 9 units or fewer AND 1,600 square feet (sf) or less per unit $1.75 $2.83 $3.92 $5.00
Single Unit, Two Unit, or Multi Unit of 9 units or fewer AND more than 1,600 sf per unit $2.50 $4.33 $6.17 $8.00
All other residential uses (e.g., congregate living) $2.25 $3.83 $5.42 $7.00
Commercial sales, services and repair, civic, public or institutional -typical market area $2.90 $3.93 $4.97 $6.00
Commercial sales, services and repair, civic, public or institutional -high market area $3.65 $5.43 $7.22 $9.00
Industrial, manufacturing, wholesale and agricultural $0.96 $1.47 $1.99 $2.50

Fee changes are published here and in the building permit fee policy(PDF, 228KB).

Height and Floor Area Incentives for Enhanced Linkage Fees

To encourage commercial employment grown in downtown and urban areas near transit while providing additional funding for affordable housing, the Denver Zoning Code provides incentives for commercial projects in certain circumstances.

Applicability: Projects with zone lots ½ mile of a rail transit station platform, using the general or shopfront building form and are located in an C-RX, C-MX or C-MS zone district or is within a D-C, D-TD, D-GT, or D-AS zone districts AND are a non-residential structure (meaning that the primary residential uses are less than 50% or less of the gross floor area, excluding parking) may pay 2 times the linkage fee for the entirety of the project and may develop to the maximum height with incentives set forth in the applicable building form table or section within Article 8(PDF, 25MB) for the downtown districts.

Example of a Commercial Development Accessing Incentives

A commercial project in the D-GT zone district has a base floor area ratio (FAR) of 8.0. If the applicants want to build from 8.1 to the maximum of 15.0 FAR, they must pay two times the applicable linkage fee at the time of building permit. If they applied for a building permit in December of 2023 and opted to build to 12 FAR, they would pay a fee of $10.84psf (fee of $5.42X 2) for the entire development (excluding parking).

Exceptions

The following exceptions to the linkage fee may be submitted, and they can be found in the Denver Revised Municipal Code Sec. 27-154. The required documentation at time of site development plan (SDP) is provided below. Exceptions must be approved prior to SDP approval.

  1. Project with a pre-existing contractual agreement to provide affordable housing
    • Required documentation at time of SDP: A copy of the recorded affordable housing plan, contractual commitment, development agreement, or covenant, to be reviewed by CPD and HOST staff.
  2. Projects with an existing affordable housing obligation as a part of zoning (e.g., FRCH 59 waivers)
    • Required documentation at time of SDP: The zoning ordinance number of the ordinance that contains the applicable zoning obligation, including any waivers and conditions or PUD, to be reviewed by CPD and HOST staff.
  3. Affordable housing project funded through federal, state or local financial resources
    • Required documentation at time of SDP: Evidence that the proposed development has applied for and/or been awarded federal, state, or local financial resources and/or a summary of the legally enforceable instrument(s) that would serve to ensure long-term affordability and the anticipated timing of when it would become enforceable, to be reviewed by HOST staff.
  4. Dwelling units built by any charitable, religious, or other nonprofit entity and deed-restricted to ensure affordability
    • Required documentation at time of SDP: Evidence of the tax-exempt status of the organization, a copy of the organization’s mission statement, and a description of the project, to be reviewed by HOST staff.
  5. Projects built by a nonprofit entity to provide housing for low-income or persons experiencing homelessness.
    • Required documentation at time of SDP: Evidence of the tax-exempt status of the organization, a copy of the organization’s mission statement, and a description of the project, to be reviewed by HOST staff.
  6. Projects built by federal, state or local government used for government or educational purposes
    • Required documentation at time of SDP: A description of how the project will be used for a governmental or educational purpose, and proof of property ownership via a deed or lease that documents ownership and/or use, to be reviewed by CPD staff and the City Attorney’s Office, if necessary
  7. Structure that is being reconstructed due to involuntary demolition or involuntary destruction
    • Required documentation at time of SDP: Evidence of involuntary demolition or destruction such as an insurance report, report from Denver Fire, report from Denver Police, or similar, to be reviewed by CPD staff.
  8. Addition of 400 sf or less to a single-unit or duplex building
    • Required documentation at time of building permit: Plans for the addition that include square footage information and dimensions, and evidence that the existing structure is a single- or two-unit dwelling, to be reviewed by CPD staff.
  9. Accessory Dwelling Unit
    • Required documentation at time of building permit: Plans demonstrating that the proposed structure is an ADU, and evidence that the existing structure on the lot is a primary structure, to be reviewed by CPD.
  10. Structure containing educational uses
    • Required documentation at time of SDP: Evidence that the structure is being operated by the governing board of the educational institution, and a description of the program, to be reviewed by CPD.
  11. Any gross floor area of a structure containing residential development that is subject to Mandatory Affordable Housing
    • Required documentation at time of SDP: Documentation as specified by DRMC Sec. 27-229 and Section 3.IV of the Rules & Regulations, to be reviewed by CPD and HOST staff.
  12. Project with a concept site plan or amended site plan submitted by June 30, 2022, and an assigned record number from the city and a final SDP approved by August 30, 2023 

Reductions and Waivers

The Expanding Housing Affordability ordinance requires the payment of a linkage fee for all new development except new residential development of 10 or more units that is subject to the mandatory affordable housing requirement. The Executive Director of the Department of Housing Stability may reduce or waive the amount of the linkage fees that would otherwise be imposed. Any applicant requesting a reduction or waiver must demonstrate that the required fee exceeds the amount needed to mitigate the actual demand for affordable housing created by the development.

Request a reduction or waiver (coming soon)

About the Affordable Housing Fund

Denver's housing costs, both for-rent and for-sale, have risen dramatically since 2010. Even with robust construction, Denver's supply of housing is unable to keep pace with demand. The community asked the city to address the struggle faced by 1/3 of Denver households that are housing cost-burdened (paying more than one-third of their monthly income on housing) by establishing a dedicated fund.

The housing fund is used to create and preserve housing for households across a wide income spectrum. The fund will support permanent housing and supportive services for at-risk residents, low- and moderate-income workforce rental housing, and moderate-income for-sale housing. 

Visit Denver's Affordable Housing Fund page for more information.


Linkage Fee - Prior to July 1, 2022

The linkage fee went into effect in 2017 as one funding source of a dedicated affordable housing fund in Denver. The affordable housing fund is used to create and preserve thousands of affordable homes for low-to-moderate income families. The Expanding Housing Affordability ordinance became effective July 1, 2022 and increases linkage fees for certain development types.

To find out if your project is exempt from the Expanding Housing Affordability ordinance linkage fee schedule, view the ordinance's effective dates. If your project is exempt from the Expanding Housing Affordability ordinance linkage fee schedule, you will still pay the linkage fee as determined by the previous fee schedule (that is subject to inflation-adjusted increases), or submit an exception.

*Linkage fees are due prior to issuance of a building permit, except in cases of excavation and shoring.

Fee schedule

Fee Schedule Prior to July 1, 2022

Some development projects may be exempt from linkage fee amount increases under the Expanding Housing Affordability ordinance. These projects are still required to pay linkage fee amounts stipulated by the 2017 ordinance that are subject to inflation-adjusted increases. To find out if your project is exempt from the updated fee schedule, view the project effective dates.

Project Type Fee, per square foot, Effective 7/1/22 Effective 7/1/23 
Multi-unit dwellings designed and regulated under the International Building Code $1.70  $1.84
Single-unit, two-unit or multi-unit dwellings designed and regulated under the
International Residential Code, or any primary residential use other than multi-unit
dwellings regulated under the International Building Code
$0.69  $0.75
Commercial sales, services and repair $1.93  $2.08
Civic, public or institutional $1.93  $2.08
Industrial, manufacturing and wholesale $0.45  $0.49
Agricultural $0.45  $0.49

What projects does the fee apply to?

Every project logging in for a building permit must document information required for compliance with Denver’s affordable housing fee.

The affordable housing fee is assessed based on new gross floor area only (not including parking) and must be paid before receiving a building permit for the following:

  • Any new square footage, except additions of 400 gross square feet or less to existing single-family or duplex buildings, and
  • Converting a space where the fee did not apply into a space where the fee would apply. For example, the square footage of a garage is exempt from the fee since parking is not included in the calculation of “gross floor area.” However, if the garage is converted into living space, for example, it is considered an addition to the gross floor area of the structure, and the fee would apply (unless the addition of new space is 400 square feet or less to an existing single-family or duplex building).

The fee does not apply to zoning or trade-specific permits (mechanical, electrical, etc.). 

If your project is in an existing building and is not adding any new square footage, or if you already know your project will qualify for one of the allowed exceptions from the fee, you must still submit the affordable housing fee application at log-in before receiving a fee waiver. 

Exceptions

This table lists each exception allowed under the 2017 ordinance as well as what supporting materials are required to verify an individual exception. Any additional information listed in the table below must be received and verified by CPD prior to building permit issuance in order for the fee to be reduced or waived. Exceptions must be approved prior to SDP approval.

As an alternative to the linkage fee, an applicant for a building permit has the option of including affordable housing units either on, or within a quarter-mile radius of, the subject property, according to a set formula.

Exception Information Needed
A Submitted a concept site development plan prior to 12/30/2016. Date submitted, concept record number, and project master number.
B Project is part of a property subject to an affordable housing plan or other preexisting contractual commitment or covenant to construct affordable housing. Submit the project name and plan recordation number and a copy of the recorded affordable housing plan, contractual commitment or covenant.
C Project has an affordable housing obligation from zoning. Provide zoning ordinance number that contains this obligation.
D Project entails residential dwelling units being built by a charitable, religious or other non-profit entity that are deed-restricted to ensure affordability. Submit a copy of the covenant, land use restriction agreement or instrument of affordability, and evidence of 501(c)(3) status.
E This is an affordable housing project constructed with the support of federal, state or local financial resources. Submit evidence of the federal, state or local financial resources and a copy of one of the following: (a) covenant or land use restriction agreement, (b) instrument of affordability, (c) HUD contract or similar, or (d) evidence that the project is being developed by the Denver Housing Authority.
F This is a non-residential project by a charitable, religious or other non-profit to be used primarily to provide housing, shelter, housing assistance or related services to low-income households or persons experiencing homelessness. Submit evidence of 501(c)(3) status, the organization’s mission statement, and a description of the project.
G This is construction by or on behalf of the federal, state or local government, or any department or agency thereof, that will be used solely for a governmental or educational purpose. Submit a description of how the project will be used for a governmental or educational purpose and proof of property ownership via a deed or lease that documents ownership and/or use.
H This is a reconstruction of a structure that was destroyed due to a natural or manmade involuntary disaster. Submit an insurance report, report from Denver Police, report from Denver Fire or similar.
I This is an addition of 400 square feet or less to an existing single-family or duplex structure. Plans submitted for building and zoning review must clearly outline the addition with square footage information and dimensions to verify the addition meets this requirement as well as provide evidence that the existing structure is only a single-unit or two-unit dwelling.
J This project is for an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU). Plans submitted for building and zoning review must clearly indicate the structure is an ADU, and submit evidence of the status of the primary structure to ensure what is being built is not an additional primary structure on the lot.
K This project is meeting the “build alternative,” per the Affordable Housing Linkage Fee Ordinance 2016-0625. Submit a copy of the agreement/affordable housing plan from the Office of Economic Development (OED) to prove the build alternative is being met.
L The Department of Housing Stability (HOST)has granted a waiver or fee reduction for a non-residential project due to proof of lack of employment impact. Submit the approved waiver from HOST indicating that the project is subject to either a reduced or waived fee. Be advised that, if the fee is reduced, the reduced fee will still be due at the time of building permit issuance.
M This submittal is for modified drawings for a project under construction that does not increase square footage. Original log number.

Application Forms & Administrative Rules and Regulations (only for projects subject to prior linkage fees)

About the Affordable Housing Fund

Denver's housing costs, both for-rent and for-sale, have risen dramatically since 2010. Even with robust construction, Denver's supply of housing is unable to keep pace with demand. The community asked the city to address the struggle faced by 1/3 of Denver households that are housing cost-burdened (paying more than one-third of their monthly income on housing) by establishing a dedicated fund.

The housing fund is used to create and preserve housing for households across a wide income spectrum. The fund will support permanent housing and supportive services for at-risk residents, low- and moderate-income workforce rental housing, and moderate-income for-sale housing. 

Visit Denver's Affordable Housing Fund page for more information.


Build On-Site – Baseline & Enhanced Requirements and Incentives

Options for Building Affordable Homes On-Site

As part of the Expanding Housing Affordability ordinance, new residential development of 10 or more units must build on-site affordable housing or meet the alternative compliance options (fee-in-lieu, negotiated alternatives). On-site building requirements and incentives are detailed in Section Sec. 27-224 of the Denver Revised Municipal Code (DRMC) and are summarized below. All incentives are by-right. Applicants may select from four build on-site requirements that vary by market area(PDF, 14MB) and tenure (rental/ownership). Projects complying with the baseline requirements receive three incentives and projects complying with the enhanced requirements receive additional incentives. 

Resources:


Baseline Requirements and Incentives

Market Area Applicant Compliance Options Minimum percent of total dwelling units to be Income Restricted Units (IRUs) Maximum AMI for eligible households - Rental Units Maximum AMI for eligible households - Ownership Units
High Market Area H-1B 10% of total dwelling units 60% of AMI 80% of AMI
High Market Area H-2B 15% of total dwelling units

An effective average of 70% of AMI An effective average of 90% of AMI
Typical Market Area T-1B 8% of total dwelling units 60% of AMI 80% AMI
Typical Market Area T-2B 12% of total dwelling units An effective average of 70% of AMI An effective average of 80% of AMI

Incentives

For projects providing the baseline level of affordable units to rent or to buy, the available incentives include: 

  • Parking Reduction: The following alternative parking ratios may be used for all dwelling units [not only the Income Restricted Unit (IRUs)], per the DZC Article 10.4.5.2.B Alternative Minimum Parking Ratios Allowed:
    • 0.75 spaces per unit in the Suburban (S) and Industrial (I) contexts.
    • 0.5 spaces per unit in the Urban Edge (E), Urban (U), and General Urban (G) contexts.
    • 0.25 spaces per unit in the Urban Center (C) context. 
      Note: The Denver Zoning Code also includes an alternative minimum parking ratio of 0.1 for dwelling units serving households up to 60% AMI (see DZC 10.4.5.2.B for more details). The DZC also includes a Ground-Floor Retail Uses in Mixed Use Projects exemption for mixed-use commercial districts (with exceptions) up to 3,500 or 10,000 sf use depending. See DZC 10.4.4.1.B for more details. When relevant, these alternative minimum paring ratios can be combined. 
  • Permit Fee Reduction: A building permit (the DRMC defines this as the commercial or residential construction permit only) fee reduction of $6,500 per Income Restricted Unit (IRU) in typical market areas, or $10,000 per IRU in high market areas with the total permit fee reduction not to exceed 50% of the total commercial or residential construction building permit fee.
  • Commercial, sales, service and repair street level exemption to the linkage fee: Mixed-Use developments with any Commercial, Sales, Service and Repair uses on the street level are exempt from paying the linkage fee on the street level portion of the building containing these uses.  

An Example of a Development Accessing Base Incentives

A new 5-story multi-family rental development with 85 total units and 5,500 sf of street level retail is proposed on a parcel zoned G-MX-5 in a typical market. To be eligible for the base incentives, the applicant must comply with the base on-site compliance options. This applicant can either restrict 7 of the units as affordable to households earning up to 60% of Area Median Income (AMI) or 10 of the units as affordable to households earning an average of 70% AMI.  

If the applicant chooses to build 7 units at 60% AMI, the incentives would apply as follows:  

  • Permit fee reduction up to $45,500 (= 7 IRUs X $6,500) or 50% of the commercial or residential construction permit fee, whichever is less. 
  • 45 vehicle parking spaces required after using the incentives and other exemptions within the DZC.
    • Retail Standard requirement (1.875 spaces per 1,000 GFA) X 5,500 sf = 9 parking spaces
      • Ground-Floor Retail Uses in Mixed Use Projects exemption, 0 parking spaces are required  
    • Standard Dwelling Unit requirement in G-MX-5 for 85 dwelling units X 1.0 = 85
      • Alternative parking ratio of 0.1 for 7 units at 60% AMI = 1 parking space required 
      • Alternative parking ratio of 0.5 for remaining 78 market rate units = 44 parking spaces required 
  • Linkage fee exemption of $15,950 = 5,500 GFA X $2.90 (note: linkage fees adjust annually)  


Enhanced Requirements and Incentives

Projects that exceed Expanding Housing Affordability ordinance affordability requirements may be eligible for incentives beyond the baseline incentives offered in the ordinance. To qualify for enhanced incentives, a development project needs to meet or exceed the following build requirements:

Market Area Applicant Compliance Options Minimum percent of total dwelling units to be Income Restricted Units (IRUs) Maximum AMI for eligible households - Rental Units Maximum AMI for eligible households - Ownership Units
High Market Area H-1E 12% of total dwelling units 60% of AMI 80% of AMI
High Market Area H-2E 18% of total dwelling units

An effective average of 70% of AMI An effective average of 90% of AMI
Typical Market Area T-1E 10% of total dwelling units 60% of AMI 80% AMI
Typical Market Area T-2E 15% of total dwelling units An effective average of 70% of AMI An effective average of 80% of AMI

Incentives

For projects providing the enhanced level of affordable units to rent or to buy, the available incentives include all of the base incentives PLUS: 

  • Height Increase: Generally, Commercial Mixed Use Zone Districts (MX, MS, CC), Multi Unit (MU) and Residential Office (RO) districts of 3 or more stories are eligible for height incentives when using the apartment, general, or shopfront building forms. The following table is a summary of the incentive heights available; however, maximum heights may be limited if the site is subject to protected district standards. These standards are included in the building form table of each zone district and include maximum heights within 175-feet of a protected district, additional setbacks, and stepbacks. For more details on zone district eligibility for height-based incentives for affordable housing, see DZC 10.12.1.1. 

Maximum Height with Incentives in Stories and Feet

Zone District Apartment Building Form General Building Form Shopfront Building Form
3-story zone districts 4/50' 4/55' 4/55'
5-story zone districts 7/90' 7/95' 7/95'
8-story zone districts 12/140' 12/150' 12/150'
12-story zone districts 16/185' 16/200' 16/200'
16-story zone districts 22/250' 22/275' 22/275'
20-story zone districts 30/340' 30/375' 30/375'
  • Floor Area Increase: In the Downtown context, floor area increases are available in the following zone districts: D-CPV-T, D-CPV-R, D-CPV-C, D-AS-12+, D-AS-20+, D-GT, D-C, D-TD. The floor area increase varies by district and is further detailed in Article 8 of the DZC.  
  • Vehicle Parking Exemption: Projects located in a Mixed-Use Commercial Zone District, Multi Unit (MU) zone district, Residential Office (RO) zone district, or Residential Mixed Use (RX) zone district AND located within ¼ mile of a rail transit station platform -- or in the future, within ¼ mile of a High/Medium Capacity Transit Corridor (See DZC Article 13 for definition) -- are exempt from the minimum vehicle parking required.

An Example of a Development Accessing Enhanced Incentives

A new 7-story rental multi-family residential development with 125 total units and 5,500sf of street level retail is proposed on a parcel zoned C-MX-5 in a typical market. The site is located within ¼ mile of a transit station and is neither adjacent to nor within 175-feet of a protected district.  

To qualify for the height incentives, the applicant must comply with the enhanced on-site compliance options. The applicant can either restrict 10 of the units as affordable to households earning up to 60% of Area Median Income (AMI), or restrict 15 of the units as affordable to households earning an average of 70% AMI.  

If the applicant chooses to build 15 units averaging 70% AMI, the incentives would apply as follows:  

Base Incentives:  

  • Permit fee reduction up to $97,500 (= 15 IRUs X $6,500) or 50% of the commercial or residential construction permit fee, whichever is less.
  • 31 vehicle parking spaces required after using the incentives and other exemptions within the DZC.   
    • Retail Standard requirement (1.25 spaces per 1,000 GFA) X 5,500 sf = 7 parking spaces 
      • Ground-Floor Retail Uses in Mixed Use Projects exemption, 0 parking spaces are required  
    • Standard Dwelling Unit requirement in C-MX-5 for 125 dwelling units X 0.75 = 94 
      • Alternative parking ratio of 0.25per dwelling = 31 parking spaces required  
  • Linkage fee exemption of $15,950 = 5,500 GFA X $2.90 (note linkage fees adjust annually and this fee amount is applicable until June 30, 2023)  

Enhanced Incentives:  

  • Height increase enabling up to 7 stories and 95’ maximum, instead of a 5 story and 70-foot maximum.  
  • No vehicle parking required, per the vehicle parking exemption. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do fully affordable housing projects (ex. Low Income Housing Tax Credit) qualify for the incentives?

Yes, any project that meets or exceeds the Expanding Housing Affordability build-on-site requirements qualifies for the associated incentives. Fully affordable housing projects would qualify for enhanced incentives.

How do protected districts impact height incentives?  

Protected district standards mitigate the impacts of development when it is adjacent to low-scale residential districts. These protected district standards include setbacks, stepbacks, and use limitations, in addition to maximum heights of 75-feet when within 175-feet of a protected district. If a site is within 175-feet of a protected district, the development may be limited to 75-feet and therefore not be able to access the full height incentive. See the specific zone district building form table for specific applicability.  

If I pay the fee-in-lieu, can I access any incentives?  

No, incentives are only available when building affordable units on-site.  

How do I calculate the minimum required number of income restricted units (IRUs)?

Based on the compliance option selected and market area, an applicant should multiply the total number of units by the required percent of IRUs. For example, if a project is building 100 units, and they are building under compliance option T1-B (8% of units at 60% AMI or less), then 8 of their units must be income restricted to 60% AMI. Applicants can also use this calculator(XLSX, 38KB) to understand and compare compliance options.

Rounding: In calculating the number of on-site IRUs, rounding is used such that five-tenths (0.5) or greater requires a whole unit. At least one unit must be provided if the calculation results in less than five-tenths (0.5). Ex. if a requirement is for 8.3 IRUs, the number of on-site IRUs would be eight. If a requirement is for 8.7 IRUs, the number of on-site IRUs would be nine.

What are the minimum standards for the income restricted units?  

  • IRUs shall be maintained as affordable for a minimum term of 99-years.
  • The IRUs must be functionally equivalent in construction and appearance to the other dwelling units (see the Rules and Regulations for additional details).
  • The unit mix of IRUs must align with the proportionate mix of the market rate units. For example, if there are 20% the market rate units as studios, 50% as one bedrooms, and 50% as two bedrooms, the IRUs must match the mix of the market rate units (see the Rules and Regulations for additional details and examples).
  • During initial leasing or continued leasing of IRUs, and during the initial offering or resale of IRUs, applicants must make a good faith effort to market to eligible households. Applicants should refer to HOST’s Fair Marketing Policies and Procedure in accordance with the requirements of the Rules and Regulations.

What is required for SDP approval?

Prior to SDP approval, the applicant shall submit to HOST an executed Affordable Housing Plan(PDF, 345KB) to which the owner is committing to their appropriate compliance option and has been reviewed for alignment with the ordinance requirements and signed by HOST.

How do local historic districts or landmark designations impact height incentives?

Landmark Preservation reviews applications for new construction (infill) on all individual landmarks and properties within a historic district. Its design standards and guidelines ensure that any new construction is consistent with the character of the historic site or district. The Landmark Preservation Commission reviews each project individually and will determine the maximum height allowances based on the historic context. More information about the Landmark Preservation Design Review process for new infill sites is found here.

Alternative Compliance Options

In alignment with state law, the Expanding Housing Affordability ordinance provides alternative options to building on-site affordable housing. The alternative compliance options still contribute to affordable housing and are listed below. 

Fee-in-Lieu

One alternative compliance option is a fee-in-lieu of building affordable units. To calculate the fee amount, developers choosing this option should first use the market area map below to determine if the project is in a typical market or a high cost market. Then, use the calculator to input the specifics of the project to calculate the fee-in-lieu amount. (More information can be found in Sec. 27-225 of the Denver Revised Municipal Code).  

Market Area Map(PDF, 14MB)

Compliance Option Calculator(XLSX, 38KB)

Projects electing to pay the fee-in-lieu must pay the fee in full prior to issuance of a building permit, except in cases of excavation or shoring.

Market Area Percent of Income Restricted Units (IRUs) to be used for the fee calculation Development Type Fee per IRU required
High Market Area 10% of total dwelling units Rental development $335,880
High Market Area 10% of total dwelling units Ownership development $516,240
Typical Market Area 8% of total dwelling units Townhouses $270,000
Typical Market Area 8% of total dwelling units Ownership development, dwelling units other than townhouses $440,640
Typical Market Area 8% of total dwelling units Rental development of one to seven stories $270,000
Typical Market Area 8% of total dwelling units Rental development of eight or more stories $318,600

*The fee amounts will be adjusted annually for inflation.

An Example Fee-in-lieu Calculation

A 130-unit rental development in a typical market and under seven stories would be required to pay a total fee-in-lieu of $2,500,000: 

  • 8% unit requirement x 130 units = 10.4 units (10 units rounded to nearest tenth) 

  • 10 units x $250,000 per required affordable unit = $2,500,000 


Negotiated Alternatives

The negotiated alternative contributes to affordable housing needs through a negotiated agreement with the Department of Housing Stability (HOST) that better meets the goals of HOST’s Five-Year Strategic PlanBlueprint DenverDenver’s Comprehensive Plan, and the surrounding community.  

Examples of negotiated alternatives could include land dedication for new affordable housing development; fewer affordable units but restricted at a greater depth of affordability; developments providing larger layouts, more bedrooms, and family-friendly amenities; or concurrent off-site development of affordable housing.   

HOST is under no obligation to accept a negotiated alternative and must approve any such alternative. Terms of any negotiated alternative will bind the applicant and run with the land (the agreement will stay associated with the land regardless or ownership or development plan changes) upon approval by the director of HOST and recording with the clerk and recorded of the City and County of Denver.  

For more detail about Negotiated Alternatives, please see DRMC 27-226.

High-Impact Development

The Expanding Housing Affordability ordinance stipulates that a "high-impact development" requires a tailored housing outcome informed by community outreach. Projects that qualify as High-Impact Developments must select this option in their application. High-impact development is defined as:

  • development of 10 acres or more; OR
  • any development using a public financing tool, such as tax-increment financing or metropolitan districts, regardless of acreage

High-Impact Developments, unless that designation is waived at the discretion of HOST, must finalize and record a high-impact development compliance plan approved by HOST. The compliance plan must demonstrate how the proposed development meets or exceeds the relevant standards set forth in the Expanding Housing Affordability ordinance for both the mandatory affordable housing requirement and the linkage fee requirement, as applicable. The compliance plan must also be informed by and responsive to a documented community engagement process. 

For more detail about High-Impact Developments, please see DRMC 27-229

Exceptions to the Mandatory Affordable Housing Requirement

Below are the list of exceptions to the mandatory affordable housing requirement of the Expanding Housing Affordability ordinance found in DRMC section 27-222, as well as required documentation that must be submitted to allow staff to review and confirm if the requested exception applies.

  1. Project with a pre-existing contractual agreement to provide affordable housing
    • Required documentation at time of SDP: A copy of the recorded affordable housing plan, contractual commitment, development agreement, or covenant, to be reviewed by Department of Community Planning and Development (CPD) and Department of Housing Stability (HOST) staff.
    • Required documentation at time of building permit: N/A unless requested by CPD or HOST.
  2. Projects with an existing affordable housing obligation as a part of zoning 
    • Required documentation at time of SDP: The zoning ordinance number of the ordinance that contains the applicable zoning obligation, including any waivers and conditions or PUD, to be reviewed by CPD and HOST staff.
    • Required documentation at time of building permit: N/A unless requested by CPD or HOST.
  3. Affordable housing project  
    • Required documentation at time of SDP: Evidence that the proposed development has applied for and/or been awarded federal, state, or local financial resources and/or a summary of the legally enforceable instrument(s) that would serve to ensure long-term affordability and the anticipated timing of when it would become enforceable, to be reviewed by HOST staff.
    • Required documentation at time of building permit: Final copy of legally enforceable instrument(s) that would serve to ensure long-term affordability and the anticipated timing of when it would become enforceable, to be reviewed by HOST staff.
  4. Projects built by a nonprofit entity to provide housing for low- and moderate-income households
    • Required documentation at time of SDP: Evidence of the tax-exempt status of the organization and a summary of the legally enforceable instrument(s) that would serve to ensure long-term affordability and the anticipated timing of when it would become enforceable, to be reviewed by HOST staff.
    • Required documentation at time of building permit: Final copy of legally enforceable instrument(s) that would serve to ensure long-term affordability and the anticipated timing of when it would become enforceable, to be reviewed by HOST staff.
  5. Structure that is being reconstructed due to involuntary demolition or involuntary destruction
    • Required documentation at time of SDP: Evidence of involuntary demolition or destruction such as an insurance report, report from Denver Fire, report from Denver Police, or similar, to be reviewed by CPD staff.
    • Required documentation at tome of building permit: N/A unless requested by CPD or HOST.
  6. Projects that are classified as High-Impact Development Projects (development of 10 acres or more OR any development using a public financing tool, such as tax-increment financing or metropolitan districts, regardless of acreage) should visit the High-Impact Development Projects requirement page.