Denver is getting a supportive housing development that accepts new city housing vouchers

The development will have on-site childcare, moving assistance, case management, and legal services and health services, depending on the needs of residents.
4 min. read
Tents on Stout Street. Jan. 26, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

In 2020, Denver voters approved a 0.25% sales tax to create the Homelessness Resolution Fund to address homelessness. Denverites will soon see a direct outcome of that fund.

The Warren Village III development is the first supportive housing program in Denver to be tied to city housing vouchers. The development will have 79 supportive housing units designed with low barriers to entry for families experiencing homelessness, as well as another 10 units set aside as affordable housing rental units. It will be the first housing development in the state with on-site childcare.

City Council unanimously approved a number of different contracts Monday related to the development at 1390 West Alameda Ave., all funded through the Homelessness Resolution Fund. One contract includes around $3.8 million to help build the 89 units (the development will cost nearly $51 million in total, financed through a number of other loans and grant funds). Another nearly $1.8 million will go toward a 15-year contract for support services for residents. Around $22.7 million funds 29 vouchers through a new city housing voucher system.

Rent on the units, many of which are two- and three-bedrooms, cannot exceed either fair market rent in the area or 30% of a family's gross household income -- whichever is lower. The units are restricted to people making at most 60% of the Area Median Income, or AMI, which is about $63,300 for a family of three.

"This is a very unique project in our whole portfolio of supportive housing," said Denver Department of Housing project director Megan Yonke in a Council Council committee meeting. "Most of our supportive housing developers come with studios and one-bedroom units and are not focused on families. We have a large number of families experiencing homelessness in our city right now so this is a very important project."

The 89 units were announced against a backdrop of rising homelessness in Denver. A recent one-night count of people experiencing homelessness found a nearly 32% increase since last year, including more than 1,300 families and around 5,800 people total.

Nearly 30 families will be able to access units through a new city voucher program.

Federal and state housing vouchers provide housing assistance to low-income families. But there is a big backlog when it comes to housing vouchers; many people who manage to get federal and state housing vouchers in hand cannot find apartments that will accept the vouchers. A 2023 study from the Housekeys Action Network of people experiencing homelessness found that of 502 people surveyed, only around 56% of people who managed to get vouchers could secure housing.

The program voters approved in 2020 included city vouchers, which take a different approach: Instead of giving vouchers to people who then have to find affordable apartments that will accept them, the city vouchers are tied to specific units at Warren Village III. Once a person qualifies for the voucher, the apartment comes with it.

The vouchers are open to people making at most 30% AMI, or $31,650 for a single person. The city vouchers will also have less restrictive background check requirements than federal and state vouchers.

"Our intent is to try and really lower the barrier to try and serve people who cannot be served by any other source," Yonke said.

The vouchers will run for 20 years, though Yonke mentioned the possibility of renegotiating another contract depending on levels of homelessness two decades from now.

Former Councilmember Robin Kniech sponsored the ballot measure that went to voters in 2020, and thanked Denver votes for approving the sales tax that fund the vouchers.

"They made this program possible," she said. "To have a local voucher, I'm so proud that our city is breaking ground with this."

In addition to the vouchers, Warren Village III represents a number of other firsts in the city's fight against homelessness.

It's the first supportive housing program in the state to have an early learning center on-site, according to city staff. Other wrap-around services will include things like moving assistance, case management, legal services and health services, depending on the needs of residents.

The apartments are also among the first to make use of a new city policy passed in 2022 that lets developers zone for additional floors by providing income-restricted units.

The city expects leases at Warren Village III to begin in the fall of 2024.

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