Belligerent, Boldfaced, Backward, and Bad — 4 Anti-Affordable Housing Ballot Measures to Vote Down in Denver’s 2021 Election

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The truest test of one’s values is how they hold up, not in times of ease, but in times of crisis. Accordingly, Ballot Measures 2F, 301, 303, and 304 represent a profound test of Denver’s character. If voted down, Denver will be remembered as a city that reacted to COVID-borne adversity with compassion and reason; if they pass, it will instead be remembered as one which succumbed to its worst impulses under pressure.

In a nutshell: 2F makes it more difficult to have roommates at a time when housing has never been more expensive; 301 preserves an abandoned golf course over the community-supported creation of a new park and mixed-income housing development; 303 manages to be both in violation of and less humane than Federal requirements for treating our unhoused neighbors; and 304 seeks to defund the very programs Denver voters approved last year to actually help house those in need.

Here’s a more detailed look at why these measures are so problematic:

2F — seeks to repeal the group living ordinance passed last year which a) increases affordable housing supply by allowing 5 unrelated persons per household; b) allows Residential Care facilities to be categorized by size instead of by whom is being served; and c) made it easier to build transitional housing and create opportunities for people exiting the justice system. Approved by 11/13 members of City Council, the ordinance was made after 3 years of community input. In short, 2F reinstates the resident-based discrimination that Denver just recently purged, in defiance of the very community engagement process which informed its decision to do so.

301 — seeks to thwart the redevelopment of the Park Hill Golf Course into a community hub with a 60-acre park, grocery store, and mixed income housing development. Perhaps the most underhanded measure Denver has ever seen, it disguises itself as a conservation effort in order to trick voters into thinking it protects open-space from developers — when in fact all it does is protect a defunct golf-course.

303 — entitled: “Homelessness, Compassion and Safety”, 303 is a measure worded to pull on the heartstrings of voters who want to help their unhoused neighbors. What 303 will actually accomplish is far from compassionate. First and foremost, the assertion that the measure will “allow” up to four authorized camping sites is very misleading — currently there are no limitations on how many camping sites the city could create — so this measure actually reduces the number of safe camping sites allowed in Denver. Measure 303 will also guarantee that Denver will be embroiled in lawsuits due to its requirement that the city sweep encampments within three days of receiving a complaint. This clause is both inhumane and stands in direct violation of federal law which requires a 7-day notice before displacing the unhoused.

304 — along with 2F and 303, was sponsored by out of state money from undisclosed sources. This measure seeks to reduce Denver’s resources to, among other things, address affordable housing and homelessness through a permanent decrease in the City’s sales tax. Short-term, this will reduce funding for housing, homelessness, and mental health supports — critical services as we recover from the impacts of Covid-19. Long-term, it will cripple Denver’s ability to respond to growth and change.

For those actually interested in finding solutions to Denver’s housing challenges, supporting 302 (which defangs 301 if it passes) and 2B (a bond initiative to improve existing shelters and acquire and convert buildings into new shelters) are much better options.

302 and 2B aside, the 2021 ballot is littered with cleverly disguised but ill-conceived measures — however, this election, we have a chance to show that even in times of crisis, no amount of gilding can keep Denver voters from recognizing a bad batch of ideas when they see one. Vote Yes on 2B and 302 for real solutions, and Vote No on 2F, 301, 303, and 304 to ensure Denver’s recovery helps everyone regardless of housing status, income, or household composition.

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Jonathan Cappelli is the Executive Director of the Neighborhood Development Collaborative (NDC) — a coalition of 19 nonprofit affordable housing providers, collectively serving over 60,000 households across the housing spectrum to ensure every Coloradan has a quality affordable home.

Jonathan Cappelli is the Executive Director of the Neighborhood Development Collaborative (NDC) – a coalition of 19 nonprofit affordable housing providers.