Campus & Community

Campus summit explores the challenges of affordable housing

The University of Denver and the city of Denver always have had a deep connection. Through the last 151 years, since the University’s founding, resilience and vision have propelled both institutions through many challenges.

One of the city’s and the University’s greatest shared challenges is affordable housing throughout Denver, and to help drive the conversation forward, the University today brought to campus more than 300 industry stakeholders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors throughout the Denver metro area to discuss ways of keeping the region’s housing affordable and accessible.

“Hosting this forum signifies the longstanding and deep ties between DU and the city of Denver,” Provost Gregg Kvistad said in his opening remarks. “Our students and graduates are attracted by Denver’s vibrancy, and they don’t want to leave when they complete their studies. They see extraordinary opportunity here — opportunities to start businesses, to work on solutions to community issues, and to help this area grow and thrive. But all of us in this community need affordable places to live, from the newly minted college graduate to families who have called Denver home for many years. Exploring solutions to housing affordability is one of the most important public policy challenges we face.”

The daylong event, titled “Bridging the Gap: A Solutions Forum on Housing,” included breakout sessions on such topics as construction defects, urban renewal authority financing, workforce housing preservation and strategies to end homelessness. The day ended with a panel of housing representatives from New York City, Boston and Seattle discussing affordable housing issues in their high-cost cities. The summit also provided a platform for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock to announce the launch of a $10 million finance tool to support affordable housing development throughout Denver.

“Our population is growing throughout the region,” Hancock said in his opening remarks at the summit. “Home prices and rents continue to soar, and inventories need boosting all across our communities. I was just in Aspen last weekend and had the chance to meet with some of their government officials—they shared with me that Aspen has a population of 6,000 people but a budget of $100 million. … Most of that budget goes to support affordable housing, because most people who work in Aspen can’t afford to live in Aspen. And we are fast approaching that same scenario here in [Denver].”

Among the attendees at the summit were several representatives from DU’s Franklin Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management — part of the Daniels College of Business — which exposes students to issues surrounding workforce and affordable housing, inclusionary housing ordinances, low-income housing tax credits, and the design and placement of low-income housing.

“I was delighted to see this forum held on campus,” said Marie Kline, senior director of external relations at the Burns School. “Any time we can hear from the industry, or those influencing the industry, is a great opportunity for us to hear new perspectives. Our program started 75 years ago with a homebuilding focus, and we still graduate students who will be homebuilders as a career choice.”

Affordable housing is a hot topic in other areas of campus as well, most notably at the Sturm College of Law, which hosts the annual Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute to explore issues of economic growth, housing, sustainability and the future of the Rocky Mountain region. This year’s institute, scheduled for March 12–13, is themed around “Building Fair and Resilient Communities” and investigates how communities deal with issues of gentrification, climate change, the changing economy and demographic shifts while better addressing issues of social and environmental justice.

DU students interested in affordable housing and other related issues may choose to minor in urban studies, which combines courses in anthropology, communication studies, economics, education, geography, history, political science and sociology to help shape students’ intellectual understanding of cities and generate new questions and directions in the study of urban life.



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