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Denver is seeing increasing demand for non-traditional housing. With the evolving needs of our residents in mind, along with recent changes to other housing regulations, city planners will work with an advisory committee to evaluate the Denver Zoning Code’s rules for “group living.” This evaluation will include a review of land uses and definitions for: households, community corrections facilities, shelters for the homeless, residential care homes, new uses like tiny home villages, and more. Based on this evaluation, planners will recommend updates to the zoning code for some or all of these housing types.
While the evaluation of the code should identify any and all relevant problems with the current rules, several have already become clear, including:
Outdated or confusing language. The current Denver Zoning Code was adopted in 2010. However, some of its language came from the previous code, now called Former Chapter 59, which has its origins in the 1950s. This has resulted in regulations that may be confusing or contradictory, antiquated, or in conflict with current federal and state fair housing laws. Examples of these may include the current definitions of “households,” and complicated regulations for shelters for the homeless.
Emerging uses not considered in the code. In recent years, demand has emerged for new housing types that cannot be achieved using the zoning code’s use definitions or building forms. Examples include “tiny home villages” of detached single sleeping units that lack the amenities of a legal dwelling unit, and commercial buildings converted to live-work-performance art spaces.
Changing needs. Recent efforts to address homelessness have highlighted zoning requirements that make it difficult to establish new shelters. The zoning code also imposes limitations on mixed uses in these facilities that could be beneficial, such as small-scale job training or storage for clients.
Community corrections moratorium. A 2008 moratorium on new community corrections facilities will expire in 2018. This project will review current regulations for community corrections and identify any updates that may be needed to balance community needs with evolving strategies for reintegrating people back into society after incarceration.
Federal regulations. Recent changes to federal fair housing regulations have resulted in some Denver regulations becoming non-compliant.
Generally speaking, the Denver Zoning Code breaks residential uses down into two use categories: Household Living and Group Living. These categories and their specific included uses are defined in the Use Definitions section of the Denver Zoning Code: Division 11.2.
Household Living is defined in Sec. 18.104.22.168 and includes:
Household Living uses limit the number of unrelated individuals that may occupy the dwelling units described above. In a Two-Unit or Multi-Unit dwelling, four unrelated adults and any number of relatives to each may occupy each unit. In a Single-Unit dwelling, the Zoning Code currently permits the following combinations of residents:
The code specifically lists allowable relatives, which generally include parents and grandparents, children and step-children, siblings and step-siblings, in-laws, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews.
Group Living is defined in Sec. 22.214.171.124 and includes:
Large and Small Residential Care Uses: Transitional Housing, Shelter for the Homeless, Community Corrections Facility and Special Care homes are considered Residential Care Uses. Each one is subject to special use limitations (see “How these uses are regulated,” below).
Transitional and Special Care housing uses are further broken down by size:
Shelters for the Homeless and Community Corrections uses are always considered Large Residential Care uses, regardless of the number of occupants.
These uses are regulated based on the definitions described above and in several other parts of the Zoning Code.
Use Tables: Residential uses listed above appear in the "Use Table " for each of the Zoning Code’s Neighborhood Contexts. The Use Table shows where each defined use is permitted by zone district, and it identifies the required zoning procedure for each use. Zoning procedures may require an applicant to obtain a zoning permit, a zoning permit with public notice, or a Zoning Permit with Special Exception Review, which is reviewed by the city’s Board of Adjustments and may be subject to special conditions to limit potential negative impacts.
Use Limitations: Each Neighborhood Context Use Table has a column listing any Use Limitations associated with uses permitted in that district. Use limitations are included in Article 11 of the zoning code, and limitations for the Group Living use category begin in Section 11.2.6 .
Residential Care Uses (Large and Small), especially Shelters for the Homeless and Community Corrections Facilities, are subject to the most stringent requirements. Limitations on Residential Care Facilities are intended to balance several issues:
Use limitations vary extensively by zone district and are difficult to summarize. Key examples are highlighted below.
Community Corrections Facilities are permitted in the I-MX zone district but are not permitted to exceed 40 residents, and they must provide 50 feet of gross floor area per person served. In the I-A and I-B zone districts, Community Corrections Facilities are permitted to have higher numbers of residents.
Shelters for the Homeless established as permanent, primary uses are not permitted to have more than 200 beds, though some shelters with permits issued prior to Jan. 1, 2005, may have up to 350 beds. No more than 950 beds are permitted in any one city council district in homeless shelters that are permanent, primary uses.
The project is expected to occur over several phases:
The following links and resources have been provided by Advisory Committee members and project staff to generate ideas and discussion about issues related to this project. We’ll continue to add links to this page as we receive or find them in the course of our research.
Zoning Code Examples and Similar Projects
Articles and information on the Fair Housing Act and similar federal regulations
Articles and examples of unconventional and creative residential uses (Tiny Home Villages, Co-Op Housing, Artist Spaces, etc.)
Articles related to permitted unrelated adult occupancy
Ordinances (condensed) and reports related to regulations for shelters for the homeless in Denver