Jon Murray | The Denver Post

(Denver Post file photo)It’s no secret Denver is too expensive even for some middle-class families to afford.

A new city housing plan, the first such effort in 15 years, lays out the tricky, far-ranging problem. Besides skyrocketing housing costs, it says the city has too little supportive housing for the homeless, a paucity of Section 8-eligible apartments, and too few condos that are large enough for families with children.

City officials, including Mayor Michael Hancock, say the five-year plan — called “Housing Denver” — kicks off a galvanizing effort that could ignite serious money toward building more affordable housing.

Where Denver plans to add $3 million in next year’s budget to a new revolving-loan fund for housing projects, cities such as Seattle have dreamed bigger.

In that northwest city, voters in 2009 approved a property tax increase raising $145 million over seven years — that’s more than $20 million a year — to help subsidize affordable housing for low-income Seattleites. The money built on previous city-backed efforts.

Denver city officials aren’t ready to propose something so ambitious, but Hancock, some City Council members and the new report say creating a sustainable cash stream for affordable housing is a top priority.

“I’ve asked Paul (Washington) and Cary Kennedy, our CFO, to begin looking: If we were to move in that direction, what might that look like?” Hancock said.

Washington is the city’s executive director of economic development, and his office oversaw the drafting of the new Housing Denver plan after discussions by the mayor’s Housing Advisory Committee. He said he and others will examine “model cities” nationally and internationally in the coming year, seeking lessons and ideas for Denver. Read more