Denver walks back ‘group living’ proposal amid backlash

City’s goal: ‘Increase flexibility and housing options for residents’

Denver city planners have gotten an earful since seeking community input on plans to update city zoning code regulations that would allow eight unrelated adults — rather than two, as is currently law — to live together in one home.
After the city’s Community Planning and Development Department hosted meetings to gather feedback on the proposal earlier this year and was met with much opposition, the volunteer Group Living Advisory Committee adopted new changes May 27 that would now allow only up to five unrelated adults to live together in most traditional units.
The city’s goal, planners have said from the beginning, is 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.”
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.”
According to proposed zoning amendments, plans to preserve flexibility for larger houses will remain in place, but the city has “compromised” by proposing a cap of 10 unrelated adults.
The new changes also address many concerns the group received around the possibility of less parking with more people by now restricting the number of vehicles permitted for single-unit houses.
The advisory committee also agreed to clarify the definition of “household” to preclude “rent-by-the-room” opportunities, which was another major issue expressed by residents.
Guiding the city’s decision-making process were nearly 500 emails and comments, either written on notecards or relayed at one of the public forums, that staff received as of late April.
About 88% of email and written comments they got opposed some of the changes, primarily related to household and residential care regulations.
An estimated 70% of the comments city staff heard at the open houses also were against at least parts of the changes.
Of the 349 attendees who volunteered to participate in a demographic survey, about 65% of them were age 55 and older. About 85% were white.
Based on feedback received, the advisory committee May 27 also reconsidered its initial recommendation regarding the location of halfway houses.
Under the proposed revisions, the city would now require a 12,000 square-foot minimum for facilities serving between 11 and 40 guests. The same would be required for other group living facilities, including senior living homes.
Denver’s Community and Development Department plans to update the new proposal document and present it formally for further public input in late June, Senior City Planner Andrew Webb said at the meeting, which was held via video conference.
The proposed amendments will be posted at least 30 days before considered by the Denver Planning Board, Denver City Council subcommittees and, ultimately, the full City Council for adoption.
Webb said he expects the amendments will make their way before the council in August or September.
This story is from Colorado Politics, a statewide political and public policy news journal. Used by permission. For more, visit


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