Denver Forum: Making Colorado a Place of Opportunity | Part II
In Colorado, where there were 36,000 court filings for eviction last year alone, the effects of such widespread disruption are felt in variety of contexts and communities. Brian Eschbacher, executive director of Planning & Enrollment Services at Denver Public Schools, captured how this volatility and insecurity disrupts children:
“At the same time that we have seen Denver be among one of the hottest housing markets in the country, we have seen a doubling in the number of homeless students in the city. We are seeing a bifurcation of housing stability. We have some neighborhoods in the city, in particular Sun Valley, where forty percent of the students who were expected to return to the school the next year, did not. So, you can imagine if there are 25 kindergarteners in a class, you look to the left and to the right and 10 of those students are not with you the next year."
Dace West, executive director of Mile High Connects, discussed how her organization is working with community partners to ensure that transit and other public investments provide benefits equitably. She noted the recent $30 million HUD Choice grant for the same Sun Valley neighborhood, where 90 percent of residents live in subsidized housing, as an opportunity for the region to create innovative polices, programs and investments to create truly mixed income neighborhoods.
Public officials Adams County Commissioner Eva Henry; Colorado State Representative Dominique Jackson, House District 42; and Director, Office of HOPE, City and County of Denver Erik Sólivan also joined the conversation. They shared their views, not only from the standpoint of elected and public officials, but as individuals who have experienced homelessness, growing up in public housing and raising families as a single parent.
Commissioner Adams, for example, shared her goal to address this regional issue in part by promoting collaboration between Adams and Denver County. She is working to develop tools tailored to families living in suburban areas, where poverty is increasingly concentrating as people are displaced from their homes in urban communities.
Representative Jackson proposed a bill to create a state-wide trust fund to help relieve housing burdens not only in urban areas, but in Colorado’s mountain and rural communities as well.
Speaking to opportunities at the local level to support families and communities, Erik Sólivan outlined his intentions to connect families to resources at all stages of the housing spectrum, from homelessness to homeownership. He also discussed ways that the Office of HOPE can support the alignment of resources to expand affordable housing opportunities from the public and nonprofit sector, philanthropic partners, private investors and community stakeholders.
We are fortunate in this time of crisis and instability that we have leaders who are willing to innovate and act boldly. Moreover, we can draw from our strengths as a highly collaborative community, utilizing the assets and insights both from the grass-tops and the grassroots. This spirit of cooperation is what makes working here so unique and rewarding, and has guided much of our work at Enterprise.
At the Forum, we released our state and local policy recommendations to address Colorado’s rental housing affordability crisis, which builds on reports by our partners at Mile High Connects and 9to5 Colorado, and was informed by dozens of Colorado renters and local partner organizations.
With continued collaboration, courage and tenacity from our local leaders, we can create holistic and action-oriented solutions that bring businesses, nonprofits and the public sector together to create a more prosperous region.
Community leaders from around the Denver metro region share their perspectives and propose ways of working together to address the Colorado housing crisis.
Enterprise and Make Room Colorado, in concert with our partners: the City & County of Denver, Mile High Connects, 9to5 Colorado, FRESC and the Urban Land Conservancy, organized The Denver Forum for the First in February at the Denver Art Museum. The forum brought together leaders from around the region to share their perspectives and to propose ways of working together to address the Colorado housing crisis. Tina Griego, managing editor of The Colorado Independent, provoked thoughtful discussion as moderator, both among the panelists and the more than 200 people in attendance.
Enterprise and Make Room are incredibly grateful to all those who have helped to create the inaugural Denver Forum for the First. We would also like to thank our event sponsors, who have shown steadfast commitment towards reducing housing insecurity and supporting prosperous communities in the Denver metro region:
Colorado Housing and Finance Authority
The Colorado Trust
Gary Community Investments
Gorman & Company