Denver currently ranks as the 2nd most rapidly gentrifying city nationwide, just second to San Francisco. As a fast growing, transient metro area, the cost of living continues to skyrocket for everyone. In 2021, one in every three households paid more than 30% of their income on housing. Rising housing costs have a disproportionately negative impact on lower-income communities, as the current volume of affordable housing is limited. Denver Housing Authority is opening entries for their annual Housing Choice Voucher lottery, which subsidizes rent for low income individuals and families.
Lacking The Ability to Plant Roots
Mariposa Housing District. Photo courtesy of Denver Housing Authority on Facebook
According to a report from the University of Denver Daniels College of Business, Denver rent had a year-over-year increase of 13% from April 2021 to April 2022. The sharp rent hike affects residents differently: some are frustrated with the rental market but renew their lease anyway, others leave to find apartments in less expensive neighborhoods, some leave the metro area entirely and a portion of residents are forced out of their homes, unable to afford the cost of living. While the wealth gap is widening in Denver, it still has the most acute affect on the lowest income families and individuals. Low income residents struggle to afford the cost of living as is, let alone a steady increase.
For younger individuals and couples, being forced to move neighborhoods to find affordable housing every few years can feel upsetting but manageable. But for families with young children, being forced to move around the metro area on a constant basis severs any real ability for planting roots, building community and having meaningful friendships. Additionally, longtime Denver residents are finding themselves pushed out of the neighborhoods they grew up in, which diminishes community ties and can wipe away a sense of belonging.
In order to provide stable and long term affordable housing options, Denver Housing Authority rolls out the Housing Choice Voucher program lottery each year. Previously known as Section 8 Housing, the Housing Choice Voucher program provides federal subsidies for a portion of a low-income household’s rent in order to support stable and affordable housing options.
Online entries into the housing lottery will be accepted from September 15 through September 16. Individuals and families can submit one online entry per household. Following the entry period, numbers will be drawn from a lottery system. Anyone whose number is drawn is eligible to apply for the Housing Choice Voucher program. Both low income residents currently struggling to afford housing and people experiencing homelessness are eligible to enter the lottery. The level of assistance households receive is proportional to their monthly income. Tenants can expect to allocate roughly 30% of their income towards rent, while HCV subsidizes the rest. HCV factors in considerations for very low income and unemployed residents, who may need additional subsidies. To remain eligible for continued assistance, households must complete an annual recertification packet.
“The Housing Choice Lottery, which happens once per year, begins the application process for people who are interested in and eligible for affordable housing in Denver. With the number of individuals and families currently experiencing homelessness, we hope to house approximately 500 members of the community through this year’s lottery,” said Loretta Owens, director of housing choice voucher programs of Denver Housing Authority in a statement.
One Approach to Creating Affordable Housing
In their five-year plan, Denver’s Department of Housing Stability (HOST) detail its main targets for housing for the city to achieve by 2026:
- Increasing the ratio of total income-restricted homes in Denver from 7% to 8%
by creating and preserving 7,000 rental units and houses.
- Protect, at minimum, 950 apartments in income-restricted rental units and for-sale homes
- Increase rate of homeownership of low- and moderate-income households from 36%
to 41%. Increase rate of homeownership of BIPOC households across income levels from
41% to 45%.
While DHA’s annual housing lottery makes a significant impact towards facilitating affordable housing in Denver, tens of thousands of Denver residents are still in need of support. Together, organizations like DHA and city departments, such as the HOST can move closer to expanding long-term affordable housing for residents across the city.