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City Council Adopts Denver's first-ever zoning code amendment focused on affordability


Zoning “overlays” aimed at making River North more affordable, livable 

To build higher, developers must build affordable units, include community serving uses or pay a larger affordable-housing fee


New zoning changes intended to encourage the creation of more affordable housing and more walkable, pedestrian-friendly design in the neighborhood surrounding the 38th and Blake RTD Station will go into effect this week, after City Council voted Monday to approve the proposal. The amendments come after months of collaboration with residents, property owners and Councilman Albus Brooks and represent the first time the Denver Zoning Code has included incentives focused solely on affordability.

The proposed height incentive zoning overlay would allow developers to build up to specific height limits, if they provide value to the neighborhood via:

  1. Building affordable units in the neighborhood based on square footage above a specific height, or
  2. Paying five times the city’s existing affordable housing fee for square footage above a specific height, or
  3. Including uses that serve the community, such as day-cares, groceries or artists’ spaces. 

Residential developments and mixed-used developments that are 50 percent or more residential must build affordable units and cannot exercise the other options. The number of units required will depend on the square footage of the development, based on a formula that calls for five times the number of units required by the citywide affordable housing fee’s build alternative. Commercial developments may build units, pay the higher fee to support affordable housing, or pay the citywide fee and include the community serving use.

This brand-new approach is intended to capture some of the value of the area’s current development demand to ensure it benefits its residents in tangible ways.

Council voted on three ordinances related to this project. A text amendment to the Denver Zoning Code created the overlays, one zoning map amendment established where the overlays apply, and a second zoning map amendment rezoned certain properties to achieve the appropriate base zoning for the height incentive overlay to be applied.

For a detailed overview of the project, visit