An unusual pilot program has been signed off by the Denver City Council on Monday that will “buy down” the rent for 125 households so they can afford to live in market-rate apartments and other rental housing.
Mayor Michael Hancock and city housing officials have portrayed the $1 million program to help some low- and middle-income families stay in Denver even when the rents are fast-rising rents during these recent years. The affordable housing program will function similarly to a popular housing voucher program overseen by the Denver Housing Authority but will help people who fall within a wider income range (up to $72,000 a year for a family of four).
Employer Partners are being seemed by the city to donate money for the program in exchange for the participation of their workers. Among employers in talks to take part are St. Joseph Hospital and the Colorado Health Foundation.
Like other programs, this one too has critics. People who fear that the city is only maintaining high-market rents by helping owners of vacant rental units fill them.
“The corporate sponsors — the corporate partners that are recruited through this program — instead of contributing to this program, why don’t they pay their workers more?” Flynn said earlier, on June 25, when the proposal was introduced. “That’s the answer to affordability ultimately in this city — that people earn a living wage.”
City housing officials have argued that the program isn’t likely to have far-reaching effects on the local apartment market, in part because of its limited scope.
The council approved, 11-1, a nearly $1.2 million funding agreement with the DHA to run the program. That sum includes $180,000 for administrative costs. Officially, the initiative is called the Lower Income Voucher Equity (LIVE) Program.
A map produced by the Denver Office of Economic Development shows the locations and sizes of housing submitted for consideration for a city rent buy-down program. Light blue dots represent buildings constructed within the last 5 years, and orange dots are older.
Individuals and families who qualify will receive up to 2 years of rent subsidies to ensure they pay no more than 35% of their monthly income toward housing costs. Participants will have to be employed full-time and take part in financial coaching sessions at the beginning.
During the program, a small portion of the program’s contribution toward participants’ rent will be set aside in accounts to help them build savings.
A single person earning $37,800 a year would pay adjusted rent of $1,103 for an apartment with a market rent of $1,500 a month, according to the example provided by the city.