Housing, Community Planning, Economic Development Get Smallest Cuts from Denver Budget Proposal | Government


Denver City Council continued its hearings on Mayor Michael Hancock’s 2022 budget proposal on Wednesday, meeting with the three agencies receiving the smallest cuts from the $ 1.49 billion budget.

The ministries of housing stability, town planning and economic development each receive less than 3% of the budget. That’s a tiny fraction compared to the 39% (or $ 567.67 million) that goes to city security.

This distribution of funding has been criticized by some members of the council, especially with regard to housing. Over the summer, a public education process led by the Ministry of Finance regarding the COVID-19 recovery found that respondents gave the highest priority to investing in housing and housing.

“We all know that housing is a major need in our city. But what I see in the 2022 budget is the same old song and the same dance, ”city councilor Candi CdeBaca said in a statement on Monday. “The proportions tell us everything we need to know about our priorities, and there is nothing new to do with it.”

However, other council members praised the housing budget during Wednesday’s budget hearings, describing it as a step in the right direction and a partner for other larger funding sources.

“In 2011, the city’s general fund contribution to affordable housing was zero,” said city councilor Robin Kniech. “This is not nothing to say that our community has invested. It is a pretty big step. We can talk about all the ways that it is not enough and it is difficult, but I just want to note it.

After completing budget hearings over the next two weeks, city council will propose amendments in early October. The board must vote to approve the final budget before it can be implemented.

Housing stability

Of the $ 1.49 billion budget, $ 34.08 million, or 2.3 percent, would be delegated to the Department of Housing Stability. The budget for this department is up from $ 27.1 million in 2021 and $ 16.9 million in 2020.

Although housing stability receives one of the smallest cuts in the overall budget, the contribution to the general budget is a minority of the funding allocated to the department in 2022, said executive director Britta Fisher.

The department is expecting $ 50 million from US federal bailout legislation, $ 94 million in special funds and $ 10 million in grants. Additionally, if voters adopt a $ 450 million bond package in the November ballot, nearly $ 39 million will go to the department as well.

“We need all the budgetary resources to continue housing people and resolving episodes of homelessness,” said Fisher.

Much of the general budget increase of $ 7 million would go to adding dozens of positions within the ministry, including a four-member affordable housing review team, a capital project manager , a real estate project manager, an environmental specialist and a job transfer.

Another 20 positions would be added to the Denver Early Response Team, which responds to reports of unauthorized homeless settlements and helps connect camp residents to services.

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The Department of Public Security estimates that 6,547 people currently live in 671 unauthorized settlements across the city. Fisher said his department hopes to reduce the number of homeless homeless people in Denver by 50% by 2026.

Other spending plans for the department include $ 1 million for the homeless shelter vouchers and $ 3 million to maintain and operate the homeless shelter located at 4600 E. 48th Ave.

Community planning and development

Slightly above housing stability, the proposed budget delegates $ 36.15 million, or 2.4%, to community planning and development. This is an increase of $ 5.99 million from 2021 and the first increase in the ministry’s general budget since at least 2019.

The Department of Community Planning and Development is responsible for urban planning, including zoning and building codes, building inspections, land use designation and more.

Laura Aldrete, executive director of the department, said they plan to use up most of the $ 5.99 million increase in staff. The department currently has 40 vacant positions and 32 new hires.

“We recommend restoring the positions that were not filled during the pandemic and creating new positions,” Aldrete said. “Between 2020 and 2021, we had a 14% decrease in headcount and that’s largely what we’re asking for to come back in 2022.”

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More than $ 3.6 million would restore 19 positions in development services, planning services and performance / operations. It would also create 18 new positions, including two analysts, four urban planners, two supervisors, a building officer, a project administrator and a construction inspector.

The other seven positions created would constitute a new Affordable Housing Review Team to support the construction of affordable housing by prioritizing and accelerating reviews of these projects. The department would contribute $ 942,554 to the multi-agency team of $ 1.7 million.

Another new $ 1.4 million project would establish the ministry’s Investment Impact Fund. This fund, a first for Denver, would aim to provide housing and support programs in neighborhoods where the city is building investment projects, with the aim of preventing displacement and disruption.

Council members on Wednesday called for the Affordable Housing Review Team to be made permanent and for the ministry to consider expanding the Investment Impact Fund to private investment as well.

Economic development

The smallest cut in the budget of $ 1.49 billion, representing just 0.6%, would go to the Ministry of Economic Development and Opportunities. The department would receive $ 9.44 million, an increase of $ 2.5 million from its budget in 2021.

In addition to the general budget, the department anticipates an increase of $ 8.3 million in the special revenue fund in 2022, said Eric Hiraga, executive director of the department.

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The two budget increases would contribute to the addition of six full-time positions in the department, including four new compliance officers for the Division of Small Business Opportunity and the restoration of two positions in the executive office.

The ministry would also use $ 2 million to make its construction careers pilot project an ongoing program, expanding it and identifying a location for a training center. The pilot project, which aims to strengthen the construction workforce, has so far produced 9,322 construction workers in the city, Hiraga said.

Another million dollars would be used to support the 16th Street Mall by providing technical support and grants to the mall’s small businesses, in addition to promoting customer attraction events such as pop-up shops.

“After an unprecedented year of work in the area of ​​economic development, DEDO looks forward to continuing its economic recovery efforts in 2022,” said Hiraga.

Other major projects include $ 5.7 million for grants, loans and investment funds for small businesses and $ 250,000 to study the possibility of creating an airfield around Denver International Airport.

The ministry also plans to add $ 200,000 to its business incentive fund, spend $ 286,000 on a high school apprenticeship program, add $ 335,000 to the neighborhood equity and stabilization program, and to spend $ 250,000 on a disparity study for the Division of Small Business Opportunity.

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