Five Points proves di­verse com­mu­ni­ties are strong

The Denver Post - - OP-ED - By John Hay­den

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.

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