DENVER, Colorado — Healthy, inclusive, and connected.
That’s how Sarah Showalter describes the five plans that make up what the city of Denver calls Comprehensive Plan 2040.
As the citywide planning manager, Showalter has been working on the plan with her team since May of 2016.
A Denver native herself, Showalter is now raising her own kids in the city and often asks “what will the city of Denver look like for my kids and their friends?”
These five plans aim to answer that question:
Showalter told 9NEWS the city created the plans with the help of residents, neighborhood groups and community leaders.
“We heard from the community that we’re such a unique city, we have so many wonderful strong neighborhoods and we want to make sure we preserve a lot of that as we continue to grow and evolve into the next 20 years,” she said.
The city also looked to the past for help crafting its future.
At the turn of the 21st century, the city of Denver created a comprehensive plan for 2020.
“We spent a lot of time looking at that as a foundation. We also spent some time trying to measure, as much as we could, for some of the more objective goals. How did we do and how can we learn from that so as we write goals now for the future, we can do a better job” Showalter told 9NEWS.
9NEWS decided to compare the plan of the past with the plan of the future to find out which goals remain the same and which have turned on their head. Here’s what we found:
“The housing conversation is huge. As you can imagine, we’ve just seen such an increase in home prices and rents in the city,” Showalter told 9NEWS Wednesday.
A quick comparison reveals this is not a new problem to Denver.
2020 Objectives –
"The Housing Plan’s focus recommendation is to preserve and upgrade the existing housing stock, and to increase variety in both the types and costs of housing, thereby providing options for all.""Expansion of housing opportunities for people of all income groups and for special populations must be a priority to ensure that Denver remains vital, diverse and inclusive.""While some of Denver’s oldest housing is in excellent condition, housing stock in some areas of the city is deteriorated and/or substandard."
The city’s comprehensive plan for the year 2020 identified home ownership for low and middle-income households as “increasingly difficult.” The complaint at the time was “fewer and fewer homes available for under $100,000.” Adjusted for inflation, that’s equal to just under $150,000 in March 2019. According to the real-estate website Zillow, the median home value in Denver today is $427,300.
Rising rental costs were also a concern. According to the plan, the median rent per month by the end of 1998 was $651. Adjusted for inflation, that’s equal to just under $1,000 in March 2019. According to a recent report from Apartment List, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Denver is $1,060 and $1,340 for a two-bedroom unit.
At the time, a goal for the city by 2020 was the “Expansion of housing opportunities for people of all income groups and for special populations must be a priority to ensure that Denver remains vital, diverse and inclusive.”
2040 Objectives –
"Create a greater mix of housing options in every neighborhood for all individuals and families.""Increase housing options for Denver’s most vulnerable populations.""Preserve existing affordable housing."
During our conversation with Sarah Showalter, she told us involuntary displacement is a “huge theme that we heard from the community and we know that we won’t be Denver anymore if we lose those residents and businesses and so we are very committed.” Showalter explained involuntary displacement as “people who want to stay in Denver can’t afford to live here or can’t afford to keep their business here.”
Much like the plan for 2020, the city’s plan for 2040 identifies “developing housing that is affordable to residents of all income levels” as a key priority. Showalter told 9NEWS they plan to accomplish this this time around by “doing more on how to incentivize affordable housing in our zoning code” among other strategies.