Organizing Priorities and Lessons Learned

New standards, new definitions and new priorities for 2021 and beyond

In this section, the key components to the EDP Workbook are a brief analysis and policy, tools and solutions, and we analyze from the role of organized communities prioritizing problems and issues. The GES Coalition has been a part of several Anti-Displacement Policy Groups, and been connected with important national efforts with Policy Link, Right to City--Homes for All and Grounded Solutions Network, yet from participation in these important groups for collective learning, no clear or comprehensive anti-displacement solutions or policies came into view. During this time, we continued to collect data with our neighbors, and we analyzed and synthesized our learning, and listened to community-determined processes that show what kind of solutions are best aligned with our communities. 

We strive to put circumstances and cases in Globeville and Elyria-Swansea in context with the hopes that the lessons can be applied to a generalized adaptation set in collective learning. We reject policies and practices that continue a cycle of displacement and instead seek to identify, research and build collective and community-determined futures. This means supporting measures, funding and practices that are most effective for the leveling of the historic inequities faced by many families and individuals in the community. Typical housing or development solutions rarely address the roots of why that affordable housing does not exist in the first place; or why displacement is happening. Housing stability must be addressed with fundable and enforceable measures to prevent displacement pressures.  In a truly equitable approach to development, the policy changes that are proposed should reparate funding and designate a power-sharing model for control and decision making with the impacted (organized) community. These conditions can support initiating equitable processes that highlight the needs (and how to collectively meet the needs) of those most at-risk in the community.

Our vision for funding HOUSING FIRST prioritizes safe, accessible, stable, affordable and community-determined housing solutions based on community stewardship and partnership with homeowners, renters and those experiencing homelessness. 

 

The GES Coalition advocates for much greater funding urgency behind Denver’s Housing First approach to housing policy and finance. We also advocate for prioritizing a very specific type of housing that meets requirements in these five categories: Community-Determined, Accessible, Safe, Affordable, Stable (CASAS).

Defining priorities for the kind of housing that creates stability and meets community need:

Community Determined (C), Accessible (A), Safe (S), Affordable (A) and Stable (S)

 

Community Determined Housing

Priority is given to funding for community determined goals, programs and the processes to develop, build and steward community assets (affordable, permanent housing) and through capacity building around Community Land Trusts including community stewardship, collective governance, tripartite board and bylaws, land leases, resale formulas, operations

Accessible Housing

Housing is built to be ADA compliant, and accessible for people with disabilities. Application for housing is offered in multiple languages, does not exploit high and non-refundable application and deposit fees, and makes applications accessible online and in person with regular and flexible hours and locations. Affirmative marketing plans should focus on current neighbors with as much anticipation as possible, and use housing vouchers to prevent neighbors within 2 miles of the site development.

Safe Housing

Housing is safely built/ structurally sound (new or rehabilitated) and has no mold, lead or other dangers. Housing is built to the highest standard for fire, flood and other emergencies. Housing uses the newest, safest and most energy efficient technology.  Housing improves environmental conditions in the area and for the families living in the housing and close to it. Part of all housing is specifically designed for safety for high risk homes that include persons that are elderly, disabled, on fixed-income, or multi-generation homes, homes for single moms and their kids, homes for queer and trans individuals and households, survivors of domestic abuse, and households for refugees, homeless and houseless individuals and families, and households and individuals that have been chronically displaced. 

Affordable Housing

Affordable is defined by 30% of income spent on housing. In GES that means that the price is subsidized for 2, 3, 4 bedrooms at 0%-60% AMI w/ half under 30%/ half 3+BR. Preference policy scored to stabilize displacement pressures should be a priority. 

Stable Housing.

The property is deed restricted for 99 years, and the home is removed from the speculative market

By identifying housing stability as a one of the primary social determinants of health, we can see the urgent need to prioritize funding to make Housing First policies a reality, and that this increase in funding lays the foundation for stabilizing individual, family and community health, and stabilizing society as whole. Housing is a basic need that should be guaranteed for all. We’ve waited decades for private developers to provide solutions, placing wildly unrealistic expectations on for-profit actors whose primary goal is to make money, not provide affordable housing for all who need it. Housing First is not housing only. The vision of Housing First sees that once participants are in a home, they need to be offered physical and mental health services, harm reduction and substance use treatment, income support, and employment. These trauma-informed supportive services—can be offered by community-employed teams that include housing specialists, social workers, behavioral health clinicians, nurses, psychiatrists, and peer coaches—are voluntary and based on evidence-based models.

Depending on for-profit developers to meet the high demand for affordable units isn’t working. 

The City of Denver purports to hold a Housing First policy, but with only 1% of the city budget allocated for housing stability, there is no funding (and no urgency) from the Mayor’s budget that backs up this so-called priority. Housing First starts with making the city budget reflect the funding required to truly provide housing stability for all. Denver needs a bold and much more courageous approach to funding housing first, that includes significant resources and City budget being redirected and redistributed towards housing and community resources and programming; including how we address homelessness.  For an idea like health equity to become a material reality for our neighbors, partnerships must address equity must be addressed through the entire process of partnership with collective power-sharing, and for this to happen, we must advocate for the urgent need to redress, reparate, mitigate and prevent further systemic violence of racialized extraction and exclusion. Some of these organizing priorities we have identified as possible points of intervention for municipal-wide campaigns and coalition include:

  • Demand reparations and redistributive policies from institutions and municipalities that have perpetuated and benefited from historic and ongoing harm to our communities.

  • Demand equity changes to land-use that legally protect neighborhood health and housing stability.

  • Demand that land-use policy and financing are evaluated and measured to take into account how housing policy, investment and development negatively impact community health. Set development goals in partnership with the community as long-term stewards. Legally require evaluation and measurements based on housing stability, the rent gap, rent and property tax burdens, neighborhood risk index, and other measures of market-driven displacement pressures. 

  • Create structural shifts away from extractive models of development and toward collective self-determination. These changes can allow community governance and collective decision making that centers and supports the most urgent needs experienced by the majority of neighbors

  • Support below-market acquisition of community land and support for community stewardship of community assets.

  • Implement counters to the impact of public and private investment, including tools like neighborhood risk index and equity scorecards that are connected to policies that favor projects and programs that show clear evaluation and measurement of housing stability of neighbors

  • Increase funding for housing stability through community organizing and community stewardship programs and projects