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The Real Numbers in Denver’s Recent Housing Surge

The City of Denver recently completed the second Housing Surge – a 100-day effort to get people housing that was made possible by federal COVID funding. In this Housing Surge, which ended in late May, 359 households and 597 individuals were connected with housing. You can read the City’s press release about this surge here

We are so glad that these 597 people have a better housing situation right now – we know these individuals are relieved and glad to be in housing. 

That said… these 359 housing connections are not what you may think they are when you look at the details. We received data from the City on the types of housing connections made in this housing surge. 

This data reveals that about half of the housing connections made were temporary – rapid re-housing vouchers which only last 1 year. Reunification with family or friends was counted as a housing connection regardless of whether this is a safe, lasting, desired situation for the individual. Over half of the housing connections were made through vouchers. About three quarters of the housing connections that were for permanent housing units were in existing supportive housing units which always have massive waitlists of people seeking that housing. No new housing was created during this housing surge. Only 22 housing connections were new long term housing assistance (in the form of lifetime vouchers) that did not previously exist in Denver. All other long term housing units / vouchers used in this surge already existed in Denver with long waitlists of poor and houseless people. 

Here is the breakdown of the numbers:  

Rapid re-housing – 126 

Reunified with family or friends – 83

Permanent supportive housing – 78

Market-rate housing – 28

Emergency housing vouchers (long term) – 22

Affordable unit (e.g., public housing) – 5

(Note: due to different sources and tracking of this information the total does not equal 359; there is some overlap in tracking in these ways; this is how we received the info from the City) 

If we ever want to actually end houselessness and have housing available for all, we must be real about the numbers. Saying the City housed 359 households in 100 days sounds great, but it hides the reality that only a tiny fraction of that is new long-term housing assistance – and none of it is new low income housing units. While the surge is great for the 597 people in housing right now, it does not change the availability of low income housing options for people in Denver. Aside from the 22 long-term housing vouchers given out, this surge did not create any long-term housing options for poor and houseless people in Denver that did not already exist. 

Let’s be real with the numbers so we can really create the housing needed. 

Housekeys Action Network Denver 

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