Denver City Council Approves Mayor Michael Hancock’s $1.49 Billion 2022 Budget

With a focus on revitalizing the city’s local economy and project developments after the pandemic, Denver City Council approved Mayor Michael Hancock’s proposed budget in an 11 to one vote for the 2022 fiscal year on November 8. 

The proposed budget, presented by Hancock on September 15, focuses investments towards promoting economic sustainability, improving and expanding the city’s transportation services and infrastructure, and support for affordable housing and neighborhood safety. 

On Monday night, council members passed Hancock’s proposed budget, with little tweaks approved during previous hearings, complemented by a $260 million from municipal bonds that voters approved on November 2. 

“This budget leverages multiple financial tools to stimulate our economy and prioritize affordable housing, support for people experiencing homelessness and keeping our people and neighborhoods safe,” wrote Hancock in the proposal. “My 2022 budget is fiscally responsible, equitable, invests in our neighborhoods, bolsters our local businesses and serves as a driving force for our recovery.”

Following a $211 million reduction in state revenue last year, Brendan Hanlon, the chief financial officer for the City and County of Denver, touted that Denver was on track to recover $113 million in revenue this year during the budget proposal’s announcement. 

As in-person meetings met by steady vaccination rates promise more economic activity in Denver — along with city and state funds, bonds and assistance from federal programs — Hancock projects a total budget of $1.49 billion for 2022. 

Here’s a breakdown of how the city plans to distribute that. 

Economic Recovery and City Development

A render of the future 5280 Trail, a developing city-wide project included in the 2022 city budget. Photo courtesy of Downtown Denver Partnership.

Denver, along with everywhere else, saw a sharp decline in visitors during the pandemic, taking a big toll on the local hospitality and tourism sector. With new state-of-the-art debuts like Meow Wolf and a revamped art museum, the city showcases confidence in returning to its pre-pandemic days. Projects mentioned in the budget include the developing 5280 Trail, recreation centers, libraries and career development programs.

In an effort to revitalize the local economy, Hancock’s proposal will invest resources to support arts and culture projects, expand public parks and recreation and improve the city’s transportation and infrastructure. 

Budget Highlights

Starting January 1, 2022, Denver will increase metered parking rates from $1 an hour to $2, estimated to bring $9.5 million in revenue. Those funds will support several city initiatives to improve transportation, mobility, bike trails and pedestrian access, in addition to improved road and traffic safety.

With funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the city will provide grants to small businesses, revitalize the downtown area, support for childcare and school programs aimed at improving mental health among youth and money towards the city’s Neighborhood Equity & Stabilization (NEST) initiative, which advocates for local businesses and neighborhoods that are impacted by gentrification and growing urbanization. Additional funding from President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Plan is also anticipated.

Housing and Support for Unhoused Communities

Safe Outdoor Sites have been an effective alternative to homeless shelters in Denver, but the city has received pushback from opposing neighborhoods and communities. Photo courtesy of Colorado Village Collaborative Facebook.

With a concerning number of individuals experiencing homelessness and housing instability in Denver, the budget will invest $190 million to expand affordable housing, hotels and motels, tiny home villages and alternative housing solutions to shelters. 

READ: How Denver Is Failing to Address the Housing Crisis

Budget Highlights 

The $190 million investment will support housing accessibility programs, provide rental and utility assistance and expand affordable housing projects, including 125 new affordable housing units supported through the federal Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act grant program, in addition to upgrading 245 existing units through Denver’s Supportive Housing Social Impact Bond. $40.9 million from the Homelessness Resolution Fund will invest in access to housing services and support for individuals experiencing homelessness.

Council members proposed allocating $189,000 to hire a city attorney who specializes in affordable housing, which was approved during a previous budget hearing. $28 million from ARPA into the city’s Affordable Housing Fund in addition to another $20 million to support affordable housing, expanding services to unhoused individuals, and alternatives to shelters, like safe outdoor and parking spaces and tiny home villages. 

Neighborhood and Community Advocacy

Denver politics, Ellie Sullum, Courtney Meihls, DDPHE

Denver’s STAR program is an effective alternative to 911 during behavioral health crisis. Photo courtesy of Denver STAR program

In an effort to address issues like policing and community safety, Denver will invest $13.8 million to hire and fill vacancies in the fire, police and sheriff department and support for the city’s new Safety Enforcement Team and youth prevention programs, in addition other community improvement initiatives. 

Budget Highlights

$3.8 million will support the expansion of Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response Program (STAR) program, which replaces law enforcement intervention during behavioral health crises with trauma-informed care. $1 million will support a mental health crisis intervention program in city jails and $947,000 will go into a new Assessment Intake Diversion (AID) Center to prevent vulnerable individuals from entering the criminal justice system through mental health services.

“With all these funds combined, we’ll have a once-in-a-lifetime, once-in-a-generation investment in our whole community that will echo with time,” said Hanlon during the proposed budget announcement. 

See the Mayor’s 2022 budget here.