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Late-night vote moves forward a major zoning code update in Denver

Planning Board recommends approval of “Group Living” amendments

More than 50 Denver residents lined up virtually and in person today to weigh in on proposed changes to the Denver Zoning Code. These changes would update how the zoning code regulates a range of residential uses, from how many unrelated people can live in a house together to where residential care facilities can be located. The proposal would replace multiple discriminatory zoning codes with a more equitable, forward-thinking approach, and is part of the City and County of Denver’s strategy to provide more and better housing opportunities for all residents.

After eight hours of testimony and deliberation, board members voted 8-0 to recommend approval of the Group Living amendments. The board’s hearing follows two years of research and community engagement by city staff, working with an advisory committee made up of local experts, service providers and representatives of neighborhood groups and other advocacy organizations. With today’s approval, these zoning code changes will now advance to Denver City Council for review and a final vote.

“Opening new opportunities for more housing options is key to addressing our city’s housing needs, and that need for those housing options has only grown more urgent in the wake of COVID-19,” said Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “It’s more important than ever that we have a zoning code that reflects how people live now, as well as the values of the more equitable city we want to live in.”

“This code update will help lower housing costs by ensuring it is legal for residents to split costs with roommates and will expand where group homes and shelters can be located. These are critical services for providing people with warm beds and essential care — needs that have become even more acute as a result of the pandemic,” said Laura E. Aldrete, executive director of Community Planning and Development.

What’s being proposed?

The proposed changes would allow more unrelated people to live together and share housing costs, as is already possible in most other cities. Currently, Denver’s definition of “household” limits the number of unrelated roommates who may live together to only two.

It would also allow residential care and group homes in more places and categorize them by size instead of the needs they serve. This would eliminate many barriers that facilities addressing community needs like shelters and halfway houses currently face, and it would allow their residents to live closer to transit and services. The city’s current rules on these types of facilities perpetuate inequity, effectively keeping some populations from living near the jobs, transit and other services they need while concentrating these uses in only a few neighborhoods today.

Additionally, the changes would improve predictability for residential care providers and neighboring residents by standardizing permitting processes and regulations, such as spacing between facilities, and would require community information meetings prior to submitting a formal application for larger residential care uses to notify and educate neighbors and foster positive relationships.

>> Download presentation given to Planning Board (PDF)

Next Steps

Following the Planning Board’s approval, the proposal will now move to City Council, whose review of the proposal begins with the Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Community Planning and Development will commit to an annual policy review to evaluate progress as well as unintended impacts, particularly in areas vulnerable to displacement.

A public hearing before the full council is expected in October. Additional information on how to participate will be posted at Denvergov.org/groupliving.