About

COVID-19 Response

The City and County of Denver has responded to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis by implementing a variety of strategies for individuals experiencing homelessness. This has also expanded opportunities for rehousing, housing stability, and housing opportunity.

Learn more about The Department of Housing Stability’s COVID-19 efforts from Chief Housing Officer Britta Fisher, along with HOST staff and partners from Denver’s Department of Public Health & Environment, presenting an update on COVID-19 operations to City Council’s Safety, Housing, Education, and Homelessness Committee.
Watch the Full Presentation

Read the HOST COVID-19 Response: One Year Summary Report

Read the HOST COVID-19 Response: Full Report(PDF, 715KB)

Who We Are

At the Department of Housing Stability (HOST) we are committed to ensuring all Denverites have a roof over their heads. We invest resources, create policy, and partner with various organizations to help keep residents in the homes that they already live in, quickly resolve an experience of homelessness, and connect residents to new housing opportunities.

To support these efforts, the department helps to:

  1. Stabilize residents at risk of involuntary displacement and connect residents to housing resources
  2. Support residents experiencing a crisis and connect them to overnight shelter, services, and short-term and permanent housing
  3. Create and preserve existing affordable housing and connect residents at any income level to new housing opportunities

HOST Organizational Chart(PDF, 56KB)

Chief Housing Officer and Executive Director

 Photo of Chief Housing Officer, Britta Fisher

Britta Fisher, Chief Housing Officer

Britta Fisher was appointed as Chief Housing Officer for the City & County of Denver by Mayor Michael B. Hancock in June 2018. Fisher has been involved in affordable housing in the Denver area since 2000, serving primarily in the non-profit sector.

Fisher most recently served as the Executive Director of mpowered, an organization providing financial coaching and transformation. Fisher spent the prior 11 years at Localworks in Wheat Ridge, supporting revitalization through community and economic development strategies and tools.

Fisher’s passion and expertise for housing is reflected in her leadership as she has advocated for the investments needed to create affordable units and funding for the state. She was appointed by Gov. Hickenlooper to the State Housing Board and and served for eight years, including as Chair.

She enjoys scenic hikes and capturing the Colorado landscape in photographs. At home she sips refreshing beverages with her husband on the back deck.

Advisory Boards and Commissions

In order to inform and guide the implementation of the 2021 Action Plan, a panel of Housing Stability Strategic Advisors has been appointed by the Mayor and City Council. This body is comprised of individuals whose professional and lived experience provide valuable insight into the work of HOST. HOST will work with the Strategic Advisors and the community to collaborate and lead progress through investment decisions, interdepartmental coordination, and other strategies. With their guidance, implementation approaches may pivot if needed to respond to the evolving COVID-19 crisis.

Learn more about the Housing Stability Strategic Advisors, including current members and meeting schedule.

Past Advisory Committees: 

Housing Advisory Committee

Advisory Committed for Housing People Experiencing Homelessness

Executive Order 145

The Department of Housing Stability was created by Executive Order 145 on October 23, 2019. The Executive Order establishes the authority and functions of the department. Read Executive Order 145 (PDF).


About Affordable Housing

Access to safe, decent affordable housing has never been more important in Denver. Today 100,000 more people live in Denver than just a dozen years ago, with as many as 100,000 more anticipated over the next decade. While our city's population has spiked, the housing stock is simply not keeping pace with community needs. Ironically, while home prices have risen dramatically here — generally good news for a city's economy — this boom is also increasingly making rentals and for-sale housing unaffordable for too many.

What's the problem?

Denver's population is growing much faster than our supply of housing, and this gap is growing every year. With demand growing so much faster than supply, prices have risen dramatically.

Vacancy rates--that is, the number of apartments available for rent, or houses available to rent or buy--are very low. Today in 2019, even though we're seeing a robust boom in the construction of housing, particularly in and around downtown, the overall challenge of affordability is still very real for too many Denver households.

The average rent in Denver for a two-bedroom apartment is nearly $1,800--more than many working people can afford.

Who does this problem affect?

The short answer is easy: Denver's affordable housing issues affect everyone.

Anyone who cares about the quality of life here can appreciate that housing affordability is a critical issue for many residents. Remember that we are not simply talking about the challenges of homelessness and people with extremely low income; we are also talking about a wide spectrum of working people who earn up to $50,000 or more, yet struggle with basic monthly bills for housing and utilities.

Denver's workforce includes a varied range of occupations and annual incomes, such as:

  • Dishwasher - $19,380
  • Waiter/waitress - $21,910
  • Home health aide - $24,980
  • Teaching assistant - $27,620
  • Bank teller - $29,330
  • Veterinary tech - $31,180
  • Bus driver - $32,920
  • Community health worker - $36,830

Many young people, growing families, low- and middle-income families, older adults, or people with disabilities do not have the income that is needed to keep up with the rise in housing costs and the scarcity of availability.

Denver will not be the Denver that we all love--and all work to preserve, protect, and grow--without the opportunity for people of all income levels to live in safety and peace.

Employers are struggling to hire the workers they need to grow their businesses, because workers cannot find housing within reasonable commuting distance.

Our ability to recruit companies to locate here could be reduced if our housing prices and availability does not improve.

Our wonderful climate for entrepreneurs is equally at risk.

Is our lack of affordable housing your problem? It is if you love Denver.

What is the Area Median Income (AMI)?

Area Median Income, commonly referred to as "AMI," is a federal calculation based on census data from every geographic area. The number matters a great deal when we look at affordable housing in Denver--an area with a current AMI of $70,000 for a one-person household.

Anyone you know who earns less than that figure is very likely to be adversely affected by housing costs here. Below is the 2020 AMI chart for Denver, by household size. Consider that many people who work, including full-time work, earn less than 100% AMI. This is why we are so concerned about income levels, housing affordability, and creating more units for people in the 30-80% AMI range.

2021 Income Limits (PDF, 144KB)

 

How do we define "affordable"?

Across the U.S., housing costs are considered "affordable" if your monthly rent or mortgage, plus utilities, add up to no more than one-third of your gross household earnings.

This means that if an individual person earns $43,000 annually, for example, he or she has a before-tax monthly income of about $3,580. One-third of that would be about $1,200. In this example, that would leave about $2,380 for every other expense, including:

  • taxes
  • clothing
  • child care
  • groceries
  • transportation
  • savings
  • health care (premium + out of pocket)
  • phone
  • internet
  • consumer debt or loans
  • education beyond high school

You can quickly see that paying any amount greater than 30% of your gross monthly income for housing does not leave much flexibility to build a better future--to be able to sustain meeting the kinds of expenses on this list.

Today too many Denver households are "rent-burdened"--meaning that they pay more than this 30% of their monthly income for housing.

  • There are about 70,000 renter households in Denver today. There are about 30,000 homeowner households.
  • 87% of Denver's renter households earn less than $35,000 annually.
  • About half of all renter households in Denver, and a third of all households here--combining renters and owners---struggle with this guideline of "affordability" and are potentially at risk for eviction.
  • The national standard of not paying more than 30% of monthly income for housing is even more relevant to homeownership, since missing payments can lead to foreclosure.

The city is extremely reluctant to approve a buyer a for-sale affordable home when the buyer's income verification shows that more than 30% of monthly income is required for housing because having so little financial flexibility increases the likelihood that future mortgage payments could be missed.

We all want owners to have a home they can keep. If an owner is paying more than 30% of his/her income for housing, that household is more likely to be one job loss, one medical emergency, one unforeseen household appliance needing replacement or car repair away from not covering other expenses--like the mortgage. 

What does the city do to help?

On the DEVELOPMENT side, OED invests in affordable units. 

  • We deliver on the city's ambitious goals to build units and to preserve existing income-restricted units
  • We help fund emergency shelter and supportive housing
  • We close the gap for affordable units between developer and bank financing, making projects possible with local and federal dollars
  • We add covenants to funded projects to ensure that affordable units stay that way in the future
  • We manage the units created by Denver's Inclusionary Housing Ordinance 

On the PROGRAM side, HOST provides in services for people.

  • We fund tenant-based rental assistance programs    
  • We fund emergency rental and utility assistance payments
  • We fund and coordinate rent "gap" funding so that qualified renters can pay 30-35% of their monthly income, not 50% or more
  • We fund homebuyer counseling for people ready to buy
  • We income-verify prospective buyers to ensure that they are purchasing a home they can sustainably afford to keep, with housing costs less than 30% of their monthly income
  • We fund down payment assistance 
  • We fund emergency home repair programs and accessibility modifications  

Together, this is an ambitious approach to reach five overall goals:

  1. Creating opportunities for all residents to live where they work and play
  2. Investing in mixed-use, mixed-income projects wherever possible to create the greatest economic diversity
  3. Focusing affordable housing investments near transit and in targeted neighborhoods to create catalytic economic opportunities
  4. Anticipating and, where possible, mitigating the involuntary displacement from gentrification
  5. Providing incentives and resources to support private and nonprofit investment


For more detail about Denver's current and future plans and affordable housing goals, see the city's Five-Year Comprehensive Plan for Housing.

What resources can we draw on?

In the past, federal HOME and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds have been the city's primary tools for investing in housing. These funding sources are both declining sharply and are especially uncertain in our current national political climate.

Starting in 2015, the city of Denver began to step in to fill this alarming gap. In 2015, the city, the State and the Colorado Housing Financing Authority (CHFA) together invested $10M in what was launched as the Revolving Affordable Housing Loan Fund (RAHLF). Projects began moving swiftly through this new pipeline, and the loan fund was fully invested by 2017.

In 2016, the city made a one-time allocation of $8M from its General Fund for affordable housing.

In 2017, the city launched its historic dedicated fund for affordable housing, which is anticipated to raise up to $15M annually for a 10-year period.

In 2018, the city announced its intention to double its local Affordable Housing Fund from $15M to $30M annually and also, through bond revenue issued by the Denver Housing Authority, add an additional $105M to the fund over the next five years.

So while the federal funding outlook for housing is uncertain, we have taken local steps to ensure that our bold plans to improve our create and preserve our affordable housing units can continue.