Five Points proves diverse communities are strong
Iam a Denver native and a 22 year resident of the Five Points neighborhood. Over the past 18 years I have helped countless families move in and out of Five Points in my job as a realtor. Most of my clients move into Five Points for a sense of community believing that a diverse neighborhood is better for their children’s future and because they want a community that is walkable and has access to transit, downtown jobs and resources for their families.
The fact that few neighborhoods in the city have these resources to the degree of Five Points and other urban neighborhoods has caused housing prices to rise in these communities as demand outstrips supply. The average price of a market-rate, for-sale home in Five Points topped $500,000 in the first quarter of 2017. While that’s half price compared to Boulder, it’s far from affordable.
The answer to this puzzle is not to throw up the gates in an effort the keep people from moving to communities that offer the best opportunities for their families. To do so would only ensure that our neighborhoods grow ever more expensive as people fight for access to a shrinking supply of housing in neighborhoods with good schools, transit, parks, jobs and entertainment.
Rather the answer is to build more communities that offer a mix of resources to people at a wide range of income levels.
In this effort Five Points can serve as instructive to the city as a whole. While the cost of market-rate housing has risen, our community has worked hard to ensure there continues to be ample supply of affordable and low income housing in the neighborhood. According to the Piton Foundation, Five Points had over 2,500 subsidized housing units in 2015, which constitutes nearly one third of the neighborhood’s housing stock, and that number has risen since, as we have added hundreds of new affordable units along Welton Street and new buildings for people transitioning from homelessness along Broadway.
This has been done without negatively impacting the quality of Five Point’s single family neighborhoods such as Curtis Park and San Rafael by focusing multi-family density along commercial corridors and using design guidelines to ensure the new buildings complement the existing fabric of the historic community.
We have also encouraged the construction of carriage houses in the single-family neighborhoods to ensure economic diversity and increased density in a way that is compatible with the historic Victorian homes. As a result only 38 percent of renters in Five Points spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing compared to 48 percent in the Metro area. This helps reduce the threat of displacement and ensure the economic diversity necessary to keep our neighborhood vibrant long term.
While Five Points has welcomed services and access to housing for lower income residents, the market pressures have continued to make housing more and more expensive across Denver. To solve this we need all of Denver to follow suit and build a greater supply of mixed use and mixed income neighborhoods. Five Points has shown that a mixed use, economically and culturally diverse community is a strong community. Let’s build on that success and welcome economic and cultural diversity across Denver.
If the city’s goal is to prevent the displacement of people from their communities then the answer should be building equity into the fabric of our city. Equity in the form or access to good schools, safe, walk-able public spaces, grocery stores, jobs, transit and affordable housing across the entire city. I call on our city leadership to develop specific equity goals in the update to Denver’s land use and transportation master plan underway now.
John Hayden is president of Curtis Park Neighbors, a realtor with Kentwood City Properties, a member of the Mayor’s pedestrian and bicycle advisory committees, on the board of Walkdenver and runs a stewardship program for parks in Five Points.