Site icon Housekeys Action Network Denver

Evaluating Mayoral Candidates’ Houselessness Plans Based on Houseless People’s Priorities 

Evaluating Mayoral Candidates’ Houselessness Plans Based on Houseless People’s Priorities 

Housekeys Action Network Denver recently released our housing report “Pipe Dreams and Picket Fences”, detailing the findings from our survey with 828 houseless people about housing priorities and experiences. This survey, combined with 4 community forums, 38 interviews, and additional community feedback, bring together the voices of over 1,000 houseless people in Denver to give direction on the housing we need to be creating. This report also serves as a critical tool for evaluating our Mayoral candidates’ plans for addressing houselessness – any such plan can only be successful when directed by houseless people themselves and within the context of past and present public housing knowledge. 

Since there are 16 Mayoral candidates, and many of them do not have detailed written plans, or have plans that overlap in significant ways, we will only evaluate some of the candidates’ plans here. You can use our report yourself to evaluate other candidates’ plans by comparing the plans laid out by candidates with the priorities, desires, barriers, and other issues houseless people shared. One can also use the research on public housing included in this report to evaluate a plan’s ability to deliver on the housing needed.  

Plans for Controlled Houseless Sites 

Many candidates have plans that focus on shuffling houseless people into program sites run by service providers. Candidates including Kelly Brough, Mike Johnston, and Chris Hansen, among others, have plans to use enforcement of the camping ban as a means to do so. Sites include supposed “new solutions” such as Safe Outdoor Spaces (SOS), Tiny Home Villages (THV), Navigation Centers, and Hotels run by providers – most of which act as glorified shelters. 

But are these sites the kind of housing that houseless people want or need? 

When it comes to those proposing these kinds of sites as “housing” substitutes that houseless people must resolve to live in because the candidates either: 1) believe as a city we can’t afford better, 2) believe houseless people need that kind of strict, controlled environment, or 3) because houseless people don’t deserve better in the form of quality, autonomous housing, these candidates’ plans do not align with the top priorities for housing from the large majority of houseless people

Plans for Structures Without Amenities 

Additionally, the candidates proposing these types of sites – SOS, THV, Navigation Centers, and hotels run by providers – as central parts of their houselessness plan should consider the absence of basic amenities in these sites. 

These housing desires named by houseless people are both essential, practical, and easily addressed through real long-term housing solutions.

Plans for Fast, Real Housing 

Two candidates, Lisa Calderón and Ean Tafoya, provide this in the form of master leasing housing in the City’s name that can then be sub-leased to houseless people at affordable rates. This housing would have the autonomy, privacy, and ability to have guests like any standard housing, as well as all the amenities desired and needed. 

Master leased housing also addresses many issues raised in our Housing Survey about the barriers houseless people currently face in the process of seeking housing.

To ensure the path to housing is expedient and effective, other barriers must be circumvented. Our Housing Survey highlighted lack of access to phones and technology as additional significant barriers to housing. It also brought to light how the current system of having case workers as the primary gatekeepers to housing is inefficient, as they are overworked and undertrained. 

Lisa Calderón’s plan includes increasing phone and internet access at houseless service sites. She also discusses more training and supporting longevity for the case workers whom houseless people are currently dependent on. 

Plans for Affordability 

Our Housing Survey asked the question “What price would housing need to be for you to afford it?” 17% of respondents need housing to be free, while the rest could pay something for housing. 88% of respondents need housing to be under $1,000 a month

While most candidates do not spell out exact prices of the housing their plans will supposedly create, some do specify AMI levels or provide details on costs, while others are noticeably quiet on creating no- or low-income housing. 

Kelly Brough talks about strengthening the coordinated entry system, but does not offer any plan to significantly increase housing units in this system. No level of improvement to the coordinated entry system is going to change the fact that anyone in this system seeking housing is waiting for someone to be evicted or die for a housing unit to come open. 

Mike Johnston’s plan is only for visibly houseless people living outside – the 1,400 tiny houses and converted hotel rooms he proposes are only for those formally defined as unsheltered and would not touch the actual numbers in need. In his plan, the creation of additional no- or low-income housing is left up to service providers to use State funding from the recently passed Proposition 123 to create this housing. A maximum of 20% of this funding goes to under 30% AMI (those most in-need), and there is nothing that requires service providers who receive this funding to actually use it to create housing, as opposed to additional services and salaries. 

Others, like Andy Rouget, depend entirely on the private market to create low-income housing: something that the market has not done without government subsidence since before 2015 (HOST page 14). 

Leslie Herod’s plan uses buzzwords like “social housing”, but when she explains her “social housing” plan, it is entirely dependent on private developers competing for government incentives to build the housing. The housing she proposes here is not primarily publicly-funded or publicly-owned, leaving it at the mercy of market forces that raise rents beyond the $0, $200, or even $1,000 that houseless people need.   

Some candidates, including Lisa Calderón, Ean Tafoya, and Terrance Roberts, have plans for Denver to create social housing that is publicly funded and owned and with a priority for rents kept at rates affordable to low-income people. These plans align with the price ranges houseless people state they can pay for rent, as well as the need for public housing as a means of keeping housing affordable to very low income people as detailed in our research. Lisa Calderón’s plan, for example, while involving many funding sources, ultimately keeps the social housing owned by the public with the mission of remaining affordable.

Lisa Calderón, Ean Tafoya, and Terrance Roberts also all discuss rent control as part of their plans – a solution to affordability also named as a government action proposal in our Housing Survey. 

As you prepare to vote for Denver’s Mayor by April 4th, look at what over 1,000 houseless people in Denver say they want and need in housing. Evaluate the candidates’ plans based on whether they align with the priorities of houseless people for housing, or don’t.

Denver deserves a Mayor who understands the needs of the people and can provide a clear and informed pathway to addressing them. 

Read Candidates’ Housing Plans Here

Kelly Brough’s plan

(continue criminalization of houseless and investment in private developers & service provider organizations)

Lisa Calderón’s Plan

(addressing issues with case managers, shelters, addressing hygiene needs, opening up quick housing through master leasing, and creating real social housing) 

Chris Hansen’s Plan

(shelters and sos are the way, houseless campus with no rights)

Leslie Herod’s Plan

(good focus on housing and rights, but social housing is actually private-public partnership) 

Mike Johnston’s plan

(tiny homes and hotels for the visibly houseless, leaving all others to continue to be houseless)

Debbie Ortega’s Plan

(wants to use SRO – but talks of cramping people together, focus on mental health – not housing or financial support or legal ect)

Terrance Roberts’ Plan

(rent control and public housing funded through a public bank)

Trinidad Rodriguez’s Plan

(navigation centers, forced treatment) 

Andy Rougeut’s Plan

(enforce the camping ban, force treatment, no basic income, no new housing plan)

Ean Tafoya’s Plan

(addressing hygiene needs, some sos, quick master leasing housing, and social housing)

Exit mobile version