Preserving affordability of housing in communities to prevent gentrification and displacement of residents is critical to the mission of Mile High Connects, especially in areas reaping the economic and community development benefits that often come with new transit and infrastructure investments.
MHC is advancing policies and enhancing efficiency in community practice to preserve the affordability of housing near transit. In 2015, Denver City Council adopted Mile High Connects’ recommendations to strengthen legislation and provide more time and flexibility for the City to preserve affordability of at-risk housing. In 2016, MHC released its “Access to Opportunity Platform,” which includes several recommended strategies to preserve affordable housing and prevent displacement.
MHC was integral in establishing a partnership of state and local housing agencies, including the Colorado Housing and Finance Agency (CHFA), the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Region 8, the Colorado Division of Housing (CDOH), the City and County of Denver, and other non-profit organizations to coordinate and prioritize efforts and resources for affordable housing preservation. CHFA established a full-time Preservation Program Manager position to oversee this partnership, which takes a coordinated approach to data, mapping, and implementation to ensure that critical affordable housing statewide is not lost to market forces or declining quality.
MHC partners also manage and utilize the Denver Regional Transit Oriented Development Fund, an innovative financing tool designed to support acquisition of properties near transit for the purposes of preserving and creating affordable housing and community-serving facilities on those sites.
The development taking place in the region around transit stations is most successful if it includes a range of housing options, including affordable housing, and community serving facilities, like quality child care centers, places to access healthy food, and services to support residents.
Mile High Connects is working to ensure that neighborhood residents and other stakeholders have a voice in planning for development in their communities and that policies and resources are in place throughout the region to support developers to include affordable housing and community-serving facilities in their projects. Creating affordable housing as a part of all new developments near transit is critical to combating gentrification and displacement and ensures that we have diverse, sustainable communities throughout the region.
Mile High Connects partners also manage and utilize the Denver Regional Transit Oriented Development Fund, an innovative financing tool designed to support acquisition of properties near transit for the purposes of preserving and creating affordable housing and community-serving facilities on those sites.
Public transit can be an important tool for middle and high school students to access opportunity, both in getting themselves to a school that best meets their educational needs or getting to jobs or enrichment activities. While some students have access to discounted bus and light rail passes through their schools, school district officials cite both financial and logistical challenges for students accessing those passes.
Mile High Connects is working with partners including the City of Denver, Denver Public Schools, Donnell-Kay Foundation, Together Colorado and others in effort that promotes including a transit benefit as part of the MyDenver card. MyDenver is an innovative program offered by the City of Denver that provides all students ages 5 – 18 with a single card that allows free access to recreation centers, serves as a library card and enables access to many of the City’s cultural institutions.
One of the most important things in making sure that transit works is whether the bus or light rail system is reliable and gets you to places that you need to go in a timely fashion. This is particularly true for those who have no car and rely solely on transit to get them to their jobs, child cares, schools, grocery stores and other needed services.
Having had success both around reinstating routes to neighborhoods and in staving off proposed service route cuts, Mile High Connects and its partners are working to ensure that low-income communities throughout the Denver region have access to transit service and that bus service routes that get people to the places where they can access opportunity for jobs, schools, healthy food and other services are preserved or expanded.