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Since 2018, Denver city planners have been working to update Denver zoning code regulations that would allow up to eight unrelated people to live together to help ease the city’s affordable housing shortage.

As the city moves forward with its plans, it's planning four forums in February and early March for residents to weigh in. 

The group living proposal would allow conventional households, group homes, shelters and assisted living facilities in more places around the city and “reduce inequity” by categorizing them by size instead of the needs they serve. One of the main goals, according to city documents, is to eliminate barriers that facilities, such as halfway houses, currently face.

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“The project and the proposed changes aim to increase flexibility and housing options for residents, to streamline permitting processes for providers while fostering good relationships with neighbors, and to make it easier for those experiencing homelessness, trying to get sober or who have other special needs to live and access services with dignity,” Denver Community Planning and Development said in a statement.

Denver City Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer, who represents southeast Denver, told Colorado Politics she has concerns about the potential consequences of the zoning changes.

While she recognizes the city's current rules are "archaic" and need to better accommodate the ways people live in Denver, she said she's unsure that measures will be put in place to ensure the health, safety and welfare of not only the residents who would live together, but also that of the residents who might share their neighborhood with group houses.

Sawyer said she is waiting to hear more specifics from CPD about the "guardrails" they will put in place to ensure the new policies work for everyone.

In the meantime, she is urging her constituents to familiarize themselves with the proposed changes and provide feedback to CPD and other council members.

Currently in Denver, it is illegal for more than two unrelated people to live in single-unit dwelling. Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca says that’s unacceptable.

“When I was growing up, there were eight of us in our house, and nothing was unsafe; nothing was unclean,” she said earlier this week while speaking on a panel about housing and homelessness at the Central Presbyterian Church.

“There’s this fear that people have about changing our zoning code that there will be safety concerns and hazards,” she said. “But it’s not true.”

According to CPD, current regulations “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.”

By updating its zoning code, the city said it will be closer to realizing the vision in Denver’s Comprehensive Plan for “a more inclusive, connected and healthy city.”

Later this spring, the Denver Planning Board will review the proposal and hold a public hearing in April. This is the first step in the legislative review process, which would conclude with a Denver City Council review this summer.

Community members are invited to attend the following open houses for more information:

  • Tuesday, Feb. 11 | 6 to 8 p.m. | Bruce Randolph School | 3955 Steele St.
  • Saturday, Feb. 22 | 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. | Goldrick Elementary School | 1050 S. Zuni St.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 26 | 6 to 8 p.m. | Hebrew Educational Alliance | 3600 S. Ivanhoe St.
  • Wednesday, March 4 | 6 to 8 p.m. | Schietler Recreation Center | 5031 W. 46th Ave.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include comments from Denver City Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer.

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