A new Denver housing initiative is using the supply of unoccupied rental units as an answer to the city’s affordability problem. Responding both to vacancy rates and rising rents, the two-year pilot program is being implemented to generate immediate affordable housing options.
The Lower Income Voucher Equity Program, LIVE Denver, is the result of a public-private partnership with local businesses, foundations, and the City of Denver to connect vacant rental units with qualifying working families and individuals. Eligible renters must earn between 40 to 80 percent of area median income. For individuals, the annual income range is between $23,520 and $47,040; for a family of four, it’s between $33,560 and $67,120. Participants pay 35 percent of gross household income toward rent, and the program fund pays the balance.
Each month, LIVE sets aside 5 percent of the monthly rent payment in an escrow savings account on behalf of the participant, who will receive the saved amount, excluding any unpaid liens, upon exiting the program.
According to RealPage, a property management services company, the national apartment occupancy rate was 95.1 percent at the end of Q4 2017, the same share that existed at the end of Q4 2016. Meanwhile, Denver County had the highest rental vacancy rate in Colorado: 6.8 percent in Q3 2017. A new report from the Apartment Association of Metro Denver and the Denver Housing Authority attributes this to Denver’s stream of new apartments gaining certificates of occupancy in the urban core and new apartment complexes being built. It’s anticipated that this trend will continue. Despite the growing overall metro vacancy share, Denver rents didn’t decline.