My at-large office is a bustling place. In addition to serving constituents and representing the people of Denver by voting on ordinances in City Council Committees and Meetings, I believe good leaders need to anticipate opportunities, identify challenges and proactively work to address them. I do so by focusing on areas that make use of my qualifications and/or are of high priority to the citizens of Denver, and by partnering closely with communities, issue experts and other stakeholders. My current initiatives fall into several themes:
Information on Past Initiatives that Have Become Law
The Inclusionary Housing Ordinance requires 10% affordability in new, for-sale developments of 30 or more units.
New Council District boundaries for purposes of the 2015 municipal election.
Denver is experiencing a strong economic recovery from the recent recession, including a building boom and status among the nation’s top destinations for new residents, attracting around 2,600 households a year. But increased demand has pushed housing costs to among the top ten most expensive in the country, while wages have stagnated. The result is a threat to the very diversity that makes this city so appealing. Median home prices are out of reach for many young and middle income families, preventing or delaying homeownership. For seniors on fixed incomes and working families in the service sector, a recent trend toward luxury apartments and the influx of new residents have raised rents, making affordable rental housing nearly impossible to find and keep. First-time homelessness for families and individuals is also on the rise.
Councilwoman Kniech is helping to ensure Denver takes the lead on addressing these challenges. She has forged solutions on both housing policy and finance, including leading revisions to Denver’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance in 2014. Our Current Housing Priorities:
1) A new source of sustainable funding to build and preserve more affordable homes. For many years, Denver has relied only on federal dollars and creative financing to build and preserve critical housing for our low-wage workers, seniors, and the homeless. That has changed with recent one-time investments from the city’s general fund that have been leveraged to create a revolving loan fund. The focus now is to identify a renewable and dedicated source of funding that can be set aside exclusively for affordable housing, modeled on best practices from most other major cities, to dramatically increase the number of homes we can build or preserve over the course of 10-15 years.
2) Support the development of permanent, transitional, and shelter housing, with supportive services, for our most vulnerable residents. In Denver alone, it is estimated that more than 3,000 individuals do not have a reliable place to call home, with more than 400 living on our streets. A portion of any new dedicated source of funding should be used to house individuals and families experiencing homelessness, but Councilwoman Kniech is also actively engaged in other projects to meet the daily needs of homeless individuals while we work on the ultimate goal of permanent housing.
3) Ensure that large-scale development projects seeking public subsidies include an affordable housing component. Tax increment financing, a public financing tool to help address blight and spur redevelopment, can help to fill a funding gap and make new projects possible. When receiving city investments, redevelopment projects must include mixed income and affordable housing for working families and/or seniors.
4) Support regional approaches to mixed income housing and services. While some solutions may be localized, the need for housing and homeless services does not stop at city boundaries. Investment in land and housing development near current or planned transit stations will help address regional affordability, such as through the Regional TOD Fund. Coordinated databases and approaches for shelter and services can help better serve homeless individuals throughout the metro area. And because it has such an impact on transportation and population trends, affordable housing must be a part of our regional land use and transportation plans.
-A Call to Action: Including $15 million revenue stream
-Denver’s Five Year Housing Plan: Housing Denver
- Office of Economic Development Down Payment Assistance and Mortgage Credit Certificate Program
- DURA Single Family Rehabilitation Program
- 2014 Housing Resource Guide
Denver has been recognized as an early leader in environmental conservation, but in some areas we have fallen behind the best practices of other major cities, and we have more work to do to ensure a sustainable future. Councilwoman Kniech’s priorities include:• Reduce resource use in our own buildings, services and practices. For example, Councilwoman Kniech serves on the Green Fleet committee, which is working to expand the number of vehicles using alternative/renewable fuels.
• Provide robust and safe alternatives to driving a gasoline-powered car, including improved public transit, ensuring all neighborhoods have sidewalks, accommodating new technologies such as car-shares, and expanded bicycling infrastructure. Councilwoman Kniech is a leader on these issues not only in Denver, but through her role with the Denver Regional Council of Governments, which oversees comprehensive planning and transportation funding in the Denver Metro region.
• Ensure city investments in businesses or redevelopment are consistent with conservation outcomes, such as promoting density in appropriate areas, requiring green building standards, and business development assistance to grow more green technology, service and manufacturing companies in Denver.
Denver is home to more than a third of the region's manufacturers, which employ approximately 20,000 workers in primary jobs that bolster the middle class. This makes manufacturing important for the diversity and economic resiliency of our economy. Production jobs also offer higher median wages than service jobs, which results in more money flowing to families for their self-sufficiency, and then back into our economy through their spending. Some of the industries that thrive in Denver include food and beverage, metals, and lifestyle/sports manufacturers.
Following a dramatic decline in manufacturing jobs during the great recession, not only are most industries bouncing back, many are thriving beyond pre-recession levels. Manufacturing companies in Colorado have hit their highest sales in the last fifteen years, are out-performing all other Colorado industries, and have been even more successful than their national counterparts.
Councilwoman Kniech has been a champion for modern manufacturing in Denver, using a personal approach to support businesses. She has hosted events and makes one-on-one contacts to connect firms to each other and to city and external resources that can help them solve challenges, so they can stay and expand jobs in Denver. She has supported Denver’s Manufacturing Youth Career Academy and other workforce development initiatives to expand the pool of qualified applicants for manufacturing jobs. And she helped to shape the business personal property tax exemption for building improvements and new equipment that was a part the 2012 - 2A Ballot measure, to help manufacturer’s grow their production capacity.
Currently, Denver faces a shortage of new manufacturing space due to competition with marijuana grow facilities. While traditional, heavy manufacturing can be hard on neighbors and the environment, new and modern manufacturing is increasingly technologically advanced, and can be very compatible with the emerging mixed-use neighborhoods in Denver’s urban areas. One of Councilwoman Kniech’s goals is to support the development of smaller-scale, light manufacturing opportunities within transitional, mixed use areas with transit access to help ensure Denver can capture more of these middle-income jobs into the future.
Councilwoman Kniech’s Guest Editorial in the Denver Business Journal