YES, IT SOUNDS ANTIQUATED THAT A CITY CAN TELL YOU WHO TO LIVE WITH, HOW RELATED THEY HAVE TO BE AND SO ON.
But it sounds less ridiculous if you’re looking at the different scenarios like houses renting by the room, talking about short term and/or long term rental, situations similar to those I am sure many of us lived in in college with many roommates per home. I have to say my home would feel different if my neighbors had 8 renters (the proposed number of unrelated residents allowed to live together), a commune, or a halfway house instead of a family of two adults and two kids. I anticipate the largest impacts would be on traffic in and out of the home, home wear and tear, and parking availability, and perhaps an impact on neighborhood value. Neither is right or wrong but I can put myself in another shoes and see how a decision like this can really change the neighborhood vibe.
Here’s what some people want to change about them.
(You can also learn more and respond at a series of community meetings that start next week.)
There are a lot of rules around people sharing living space in Denver when they’re not related to one another. After city staffers, architects and other experts and advocates studied them for two years, they came up with some things they’d like to change:
- The number of adults who aren’t related to one another who can legally share a single-family home in Denver would be increased from two to eight.
- Permanent tiny home villages would be permitted in any part of town zoned for apartment buildings.
- Halfway houses would be allowed in more neighborhoods.
Those are just some of the proposals.
Over the next few months, the broader public will get a chance to learn about and react to the suggested zoning code revisions
before City Council votes on whether to adopt them. The first public meeting on the possible changes is set for Feb. 11 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Bruce Randolph School at 3955 Steele Street.
“We are modernizing a very outdated code with an eye toward equity,” said Andrew Webb, the city planner who has managed the project on zoning for group living. “We certainly think it’s very important to bring the code up to speed with the way people living together has evolved.”
Webb said part of the goal was ensuring that no part of the city was off limits to any resident, and that some of Denver’s most vulnerable citizens had homes with good access to public transportation and jobs.
As the city says in explaining why change was contemplated, “current regulations don’t reflect the evolution of lifestyles, community needs, or the vision in Denver’s Comprehensive Plan for a more inclusive, connected and healthy city. They make it hard to provide housing for Denver’s most vulnerable populations, by excluding some populations from our neighborhoods, and define ‘households’ in ways that make it harder for residents to reduce housing costs by living with roommates.”
The current zoning rules were adopted in 2010, but there are pieces from the 1950s in there, too.
That’s before ideas such as tiny home villages as an alternative to homelessness shelters were envisioned.
Webb has already presented the proposals at a dozen neighborhood organization meetings. He’s sensed concern among some that if the suggestions are adopted, Denver could change drastically. While people who might have been considering, for example, commune-style living might be encouraged to move forward, Webb said he expects the main impact of the changes would be to legalize what many people are already doing. He said costs and other considerations made it unlikely that a new wave of shelters or halfway houses would result.
Among questions city officials have fielded
about the proposed changes is whether they would lead to landlords buying up large houses to rent out rooms. The answer, according to the city’s Community Planning and Development department: “A landlord who rents individual rooms inside a large house to multiple people is not considered as heading a “household.” The Denver Zoning Code defines that scenario as a rooming and boarding house use, which is not permitted in single-unit, two-unit and rowhome zone districts.”
Jennifer Newcomer, Director of the Piton Foundation’s Shift Research Lab, and Phyllis Resnick, executive director of the Colorado Futures Center, said in a report released last year that more Coloradans are living with friends, roommates and relatives now than before the economic decline of the late 2000s.
Webb, the city planner, said the number eight was settled upon because state law on group homes for, for example, adults with disabilities, designates that such facilities that are home to no more than eight must be treated like any other household.
In addition to the Feb. 11 meeting at Bruce Randolph School, what Community Planning and Development calls open houses are scheduled for Feb. 22 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Goldrick Elementary School, 1050 S. Zuni Street; Feb. 26 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Hebrew Educational Alliance, 3600 S. Ivanhoe Street; and March 4 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Schietler Recreation Center, 5031 W. 46th Avenue.
While no date has been set, a Planning Board meeting on the proposals is expected in April followed some time after that by a City Council vote, both moments in the process at which the public will also have opportunities to comment on the possible changes.
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