For the first time in nearly 20 years, the City of Englewood is seeking to overhaul its land-use code, which guides zoning and development in the city.
A major aspect of the new code is poised to address new housing, which has proved to be a major challenge for cities across the metro area, according to Brad Power, director of community development.
“We’re no different from any other community on the Front Range in that we’ve experienced incredible housing pressure," Power said, adding there's "been a real run-up in number and size of some of the housing projects” in recent years.
As housing prices continue to surge, a historic lack of housing supply is creating immense demand among metro communities where affordable housing is becoming harder and harder to come by.
Power said the city is currently reviewing its housing situation with a report expected in the fall that he hopes will provide a snapshot of Englewood's housing needs.
“We don’t have hard and fast numbers yet," Power said.
With a new code, the city could allow for rezonings of current land to support denser, mixed-use development, such as condos or apartments.
The strategy has been a major prong of metro cities' attempts to increase housing supply and reduce costs for renters and homebuyers.
In neighboring Littleton, a city of about 50,000, city leaders are banking on a newly-approved land-use code to help quell the affordable housing crisis and manage the city's growth.
Englewood city officials are currently reviewing months of community feedback before drafting language for the new code, which is expected to begin this fall.
After two public workshop meetings were held, one in February and the other in April, city officials held an online survey from April 15 to May 8 to collect more hard data.
The survey results show a majority of respondents in favor of using the new code to promote more housing in the city but with restrictions.
For example, a question about how the code should regulate ADUs, which are self-contained smaller living spaces on a larger property, such as an apartment over a garage, showed residents' limited appetite for the housing option.
Of 116 respondents, 46 said ADUs should be limited to one per detached house and 35 said ADUS should be allowed only on larger lots. Only 19 residents said any property should be allowed to have up to four ADU units.
Residents were also asked how the code should guide small-lot, multi-unit housing. A majority of respondents, 41, said they supported such housing but with limited criteria and only in certain areas.
Power said the feedback shows residents are conscious about the need for more housing whilst preserving Englewood's existing neighborhoods.
“It’s not all about allowing huge apartment complexes everywhere. It’s about finding the appropriate balance," Power said.
Most respondents seemed open to higher-density buildings, something that can sometimes prove contentious among community members when talking about housing.
“Some people embrace that and like that change, think it brings more experiences, new people to the community,” Power said, while acknowledging others in a community may be less accepting of change, but said city officials are “open to talking" with all residents about housing as the new code moves forward.
Though it lays the groundwork for more housing, the code will only serve as a guideline for what developers are, and aren't, allowed to do.
“Most of these things we won’t regulate into existence. What the development code can do is have the standards and criteria … so that when those plans do come along we have the right decision-making tools,” said Chris Brewster, an attorney and planner for Gould Evans, which is working with the city as it writes its code. “But the code can only do so much.”
The code itself can't mandate the building of housing, whether it be affordable or market-rate, though it can ease zoning restrictions to make it easier for developers.
Power said city council will also likely discuss an affordable housing ordinance that could promote more below-market rate units throughout the city, something Littleton's council recently held a study session on.
Power said city officials are aiming to present a final draft of the new land-use code to city council at the beginning of next year. Council will ultimately have to vote to approve the new code.
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