Skip navigation

Denver Proposes Its First Ever Zoning Amendment that Focuses on Affordable Housing

Denver Proposes its First-Ever Zoning Code Amendment Focused on Affordability


After months of collaboration with residents, property owners and Councilman Albus Brooks, the Hancock Administration is proposing 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. If approved at City Council on February 12, it would be 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. Paying five times the city’s existing affordable housing fee for square footage above a specific height, or
  2. Building a certain number of affordable units in the neighborhood based on square footage above a specific height, or
  3. Including uses in commercial developments that serve the community, such as day-cares, groceries or artists’ spaces.

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.

Brad Buchanan, Executive Director of Community Planning and Development, added: “During the planning process, the community told us they want more living and working options around the 38th and Blake Station, but they also want it to be an affordable, well-designed place for everyone. So we created an approach that means the taller you build, the more you’ve got to invest in the community.”

Good design will be part of the equation. City Council will also consider a design overlay for the entire River North Arts District to ensure that new developments create a better pedestrian experience and a more walkable neighborhood overall. Together, the overlays implement the community vision laid out by the 38th and Blake Station Area Plan, as amended in 2016, including maximum heights to optimize transit-oriented development.


“The 38th and Blake overlays are a community led effort to add inclusivity and better design into an area of change, said Councilman Albus Brooks, whose district includes the 38th and Blake Station Area. “The process took over two years and engaged 200 stakeholders in the area. This marks the first time an area of the city has been rezoned to allow increased development rights in exchange for affordable housing and other community benefits.”


“RiNo’s focus has been on creating a path for development that does not harm our neighborhood fabric, but rather contributes to it, providing affordable housing and commercial space and creating a more walkable and accessible district,” said Jamie Licko, executive director of the River North Arts District.


During its February 12 hearing, the Council will vote on three ordinances related to this project. A text amendment to the Denver Zoning Code will create the overlays, one zoning map amendment will establish where the overlays apply, and a second zoning map amendment would rezone certain properties to achieve the appropriate base zoning for the height incentive overlay to be applied.


For a detailed overview of the project, visit


BUILDING COMMUNITY: Denver Community Planning and Development (CPD) is responsible for visionary city planning and ensuring safe, responsible, sustainable building. CPD regulates planning, zoning, development and maintenance of private property in Denver. We're working hard to make Denver a great place to live, work and play! Visit or follow us on Twitter at @DenverCPD.