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Denver Voters to Decide on New Funding for Housing, Shelter and Services to Help Resolve Homelessness

City Council refers November ballot measure to significantly increase supports for people experiencing homelessness

Denver City Council tonight unanimously referred a measure to the November ballot to invest in significantly increased housing options, shelter and other services necessary to help resolve homelessness. If approved by voters, the fund would generate an average of $40 million annually to support people experiencing homelessness throughout Denver.

The ballot measure proposes an increase of .25% to Denver’s Sales and Use Tax, effective January 1, 2021, to create more pathways out of homelessness through proven models such as combining housing and services, restoring lost shelter capacity and improving the health and housing outcomes of shelter through more mental and physical health, employment, and other services for those who are unsheltered. If approved, the measure would cost an average household about $5.25 per month.

“Together, we’re pulling every lever available to help people and ensure that episodes of homelessness are brief and one-time occurrences,” said Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “From new 24/7 shelters to tiny homes and social impact bonds, we have deployed a number of innovative programs that we know are working. This funding will increase the positive impact of these proven strategies and allow us to do more where we need to do more.”

“Denver residents want to make a difference for those who need help getting back on their feet,” said Councilwoman Robin Kniech, the Council sponsor of the measure. “With voter support, these funds will allow our community to do just that, by investing in proven solutions and meeting more of the need that is outstripping our current efforts.”

While a public and stakeholder engagement process will inform more specific plans for fund investments and outcomes if approved, current modeling shows the new fund will:

  • Fill funding gaps and increase the number of new supportive housing apartments by 500 for a total of 1,800 new supportive housing units over ten years;
  • Accelerate the transformation of Denver’s shelter system into a seamless 24/7 operation;
  • Establish at least five catalytic projects over the next decade that provide a sheltering environment, housing units and services at the same site (approximately 500-600 homes and/or shelter beds across sites); and
  • Allow for the development of a voucher program to provide deep rental subsidies needed in supportive housing.

In addition, the fund would provide a means, if needed, to sustain other sheltering strategies that have been deployed in response to the pandemic and are primarily federally funded, including 24/7 shelter operations, critical services like medical care, and the utilization of hotel rooms.

“As leaders of service providers for people experiencing homelessness in Denver, The Homeless Leadership Council believes in the urgent need for a dedicated source of funding for our city’s most vulnerable people,” said Christina Carlson, CEO of Urban Peak, on behalf of the Denver Homeless Leadership Council. “The referred measure from Denver City Council is a critical step in funding innovative and lasting solutions. We hope the community will join us in supporting the creation of the Homelessness Resolution Fund.”

"As homelessness continues to rise in Denver and will likely be worsened by an eviction crisis, it has never been more critical to make the necessary investments in housing, shelter, and services to help stabilize our unhoused neighbors," said John Parvenksy, President/CEO of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. "We are proud to stand with Mayor Hancock and Councilwoman Kniech in support of this historic investment to reduce homelessness in Denver. We can build a stronger, healthier, and more equitable Denver by providing lasting solutions to homelessness today.”

Eligible uses of a new fund would include:

  • Housing (buildings, rental assistance, supportive services)
  • Shelter (capacity expansion, improved access, 24-hour/drop-in day services, and services including mental health care, substance treatment, housing/employment counseling, and coronavirus prevention)
  • Catalytic projects (shelter, housing and services provided at a single site)
  • Other innovative programs and services for those who are unsheltered (street outreach, safe outdoor spaces for temporary managed campsites during the COVID-19 pandemic, tiny homes and new innovations)

While the proposed Homelessness Resolution Fund is estimated to generate an average of approximately $40 million annually over the first 10 years, actual collections would fluctuate depending on sales activity. A lower collection is estimated for 2021 due to reduced economic activity resulting from the pandemic. While Denver will continue doing its part to address this challenge, this is not just a Denver challenge, and cries out for a coordinated national, state and regional response.

If the ballot initiative is approved by voters, Denver would join a number of other cities that have established a dedicated funding source in recent years to support homelessness resolution. Other municipalities with dedicated funding in place include Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Austin and Charlotte.

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Language approved by Denver City Council to appear on the November 3, 2020 special municipal election ballot:

SHALL CITY AND COUNTY OF DENVER SALES AND USE TAXES BE INCREASED BY $40 MILLION ANNUALLY, COMMENCING JANUARY 1, 2021, AND BY WHATEVER ADDITIONAL AMOUNTS ARE RAISED ANNUALLY THEREAFTER, FROM A TWENTY-FIVE ONE-HUNDREDTHS OF ONE PERCENT (0.25%) SALES AND USE TAX RATE (2.5 CENTS ON A TEN-DOLLAR PURCHASE), THAT WILL NOT BE COLLECTED ON FOOD FOR HOME CONSUMPTION, WATER, FUEL, MEDICAL SUPPLIES OR FEMININE HYGIENE PRODUCTS, TO BE USED TO FUND HOUSING, SHELTER OR SERVICES FOR PEOPLE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO:

  • BUILDING HOUSING, EXPANDING RENTAL ASSISTANCE OR PROVIDING SUPPORTIVE SERVICES OR OTHER SUPPORTS TO HOUSE PEOPLE EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS;
  • EXPANDING THE NUMBER OF SHELTER BEDS, IMPROVING ACCESS FOR UNDERSERVED POPULATIONS, AND PROVIDING BETTER HEALTH AND HOUSING OUTCOMES THROUGH 24-HOUR SHELTER AND DROP-IN DAY SERVICES SUCH AS CORONAVIRUS PREVENTION, MENTAL HEALTH CARE, SUBSTANCE TREATMENT, HOUSING AND EMPLOYMENT COUNSELING, AND OTHER SERVICES; AND
  • PROVIDING MORE HOUSING REFERRALS AND OTHER SERVICES TO PEOPLE LIVING ON THE STREETS OR IN CARS TO HELP THEM EXIT HOMELESSNESS;

AND, IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, SHALL NO MORE THAN EIGHT PERCENT (8%) OF THE TOTAL ANNUAL REVENUES DERIVED FROM THE INCREASE IN SALES AND USE TAX BE SPENT ON CITY ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS RELATED TO THE ABOVE PURPOSES; AND SHALL THE MONIES DERIVED FROM THE INCREASE IN SALES AND USE TAX NOT BE USED TO OFFSET ANY CURRENT REVENUE EXPENDITURES FROM THE GENERAL FUND; AND SHALL THE REVENUES FROM THESE INCREASED TAXES BE COLLECTED AND SPENT IN EACH FISCAL YEAR BY DENVER WITHOUT REGARD TO ANY EXPENDITURE, REVENUE-RAISING, OR OTHER LIMITATION CONTAINED WITHIN ARTICLE X, SECTION 20 OF THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION OR ANY OTHER LAW?