Jul 17, 2017
Denver Community Planning and Development (CPD) and the Denver Fire Department (DFD) will launch a new, conditional building occupancy program for unpermitted spaces that will ensure life safety, limit displacement, and allow extended deadlines and collaborative solutions to achieve code compliance.
Monday night, City Council voted unanimously to approve the Safe Occupancy Program, designed to incentivize the owners and tenants of unpermitted spaces to come forward and work with the city to make their buildings safe — thereby increasing safety for occupants, visitors, neighbors and the public.
With it, Denver becomes the first city in the country with a law explicitly granting legal occupancy of unpermitted spaces while a building is being brought up to code voluntarily. Life safety hazards must be addressed up front.
While first and foremost ensuring public safety, the program offers three key benefits to users:
Denver’s high-priced real estate has driven local artists and others to find affordable, functional space in older buildings. In some cases, as part of repurposing these buildings, work has been completed without permits and not up to the standards of international building and fire codes, putting occupants and the public at risk of fire and other hazards.
The safe occupancy program was designed with creative spaces in mind but is applicable to many other uses of existing buildings. It allows building improvements to progress at a pace that makes sense for the property owner and the city, increasing the affordability of the project by distributing construction costs over a longer time. City code officials will work with building owners, tenants and contractors to identify reasonable and more affordable ways to meet the intent of building and fire codes.
How the safe occupancy program works:
The bill has support from arts and affordable housing advocates including the RiNo Arts District, All In Denver and Meow Wolf, an arts collective based in Santa Fe, NM which recently provided grant funding to support Denver DIY spaces.
Learn more at www.denvergov.org/safeoccupancy.