Denver voters – not the city council – will be the final arbiter this November on whether up to five independent people can live in a single house.
Officials certified enough signatures collected by Safe and Sound Denver to place the referendum on the city council’s February 11-22 decision on the ballot, the Denver Electoral Department said Monday. Voters will also decide whether to overturn the expansion of available land in the city to include halfway homes that were previously only allowed in industrial areas.
If voters lift the group live change, it could force even more people out of their homes, though city officials said it would take them more time to understand the effects a lift would have.
“People may have to move out, but we don’t know yet,” said Laura Swartz, communications director for the Denver Department of Community Planning and Development.
Evictions would not happen automatically, she said, mainly because the city’s housing enforcement is complaint-oriented.
We have completed our review of Safe and Sound Denver’s petition for a referendum on Regulation 20-0888. (Group Living) 13,642 signatures were found valid and the action will appear on the November 2, 2021 ballot. #COPolitics pic.twitter.com/CqhIFXizzK
– Denver Elections (@DenverElections) June 7, 2021
Safe and Sound Denver was a staunch opponent of group life changes, the idea city officials began inquiring with in 2018. Previously, only two independent people could live in one house in Denver, the lowest group living limit for a subway this size in the country.
Safe and Sound Denver officials did not immediately return a request for comment.
They have argued that both increasing group housing numbers and allowing residential homes outside of industrial areas would harm neighborhoods. They also looked at the years of process that city officials went through in developing the new guidelines.
But city housing and community corrections officials denied these claims, noting that the average number of people living in a home remains roughly the same regardless of group living restrictions in a given city. Plus, expanding the available spaces for halfway houses to be built gives people returning to society a better chance to change their lives, they said.
Since the rule change came into force, no new halfway houses have been opened in Denver, said public safety spokeswoman Kelli Christensen.
Councilors and townspeople spent hours discussing the changes in February, and many people explained how difficult it is to pay rent in an increasingly expensive city.
The average price for a Denver apartment in May was $ 1,640, more than 25% of the average household’s monthly wage. And about 13% of the Denver population earns below the federal poverty line of about $ 27,000 for a family of four.