Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan

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City Council adopted the Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan on January 9, 2023, as a guiding document to address housing affordability in Wheat Ridge. The process started in early 2022 and included opportunities for public input, discussions with over 20 housing developers, and four City Council discussions in 2022. The Strategy can be found here and an abbreviated version of the work plan is below that will be updated regularly as implementation progresses. You can also watch a three-part video series about the document and its findings here.

If you have questions about the strategy, please join us for our virtual office hours on Wednesday, February 15 or Thursday, February 16 to ask questions and discuss the document.

Wednesday, February 15 | noon-1:00 p.m. | https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89558143387
Thursday, February 16 | 5-6 p.m. |
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989415610


Housing Affordability in Wheat Ridge

In the mid-2000s, Wheat Ridge faced a lack of economic development opportunities and homeowner investment that concerned local leaders. Development opportunities that could improve the community were regularly choosing nearby cities instead of Wheat Ridge. Consequently, City officials made it a top priority at that time to improve the community’s quality of life and economic health while increasing its competitive position within the Denver region. Wheat Ridge was at a crossroads.

In those days before the Great Financial Crisis of 2008, a house in Wheat Ridge was relatively affordable. Fast forward to 2022 and things are more than a little bit different.

The median price for a house in Wheat Ridge is approaching $600,000 and the rental market is pushing one- and two-bedroom rents beyond $1,100 and $1,400 respectively. That means a new buyer household in Wheat Ridge likely needs an income of at least $150,000 per year (vs the 2020 median household owner income of $91,000) to afford a house. A renter needs an income of $56,000 to afford the median priced two-bedroom apartment (vs the 2020 median renter income of $42,000).

As of 2020, more than half of all Wheat Ridge renter households paid 30% or more of their household income toward housing costs. This is the government definition of unaffordability, or a “cost-burdened” household. Nearly one in four current Wheat Ridge owner households face similar affordability challenges, but the problem is more pronounced for new buyers today. New buyers likely have to have incomes in the top 20% of all U.S. households in order to purchase a house in Wheat Ridge.

This is new territory for Wheat Ridge, which as recently as five years ago was still working to revitalize itself and become more attractive and competitive within the Denver region. The strengthening local market is helpful in that regard, but City leaders are beginning to ask about the downsides of this good fortune.

This is the context within which the City has begun a new project–the Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan. It represents the first time the City of Wheat Ridge will specifically study housing affordability in the community and craft a policy approach toward whatever challenges are identified.


Project Basics

The purpose of the Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan is to:

  • Assess housing affordability challenges in the community;
  • Identify potential tools and resources that could help address challenges if they exist; and
  • Outline action steps that match the right tools and resources to the challenges.

The consulting firm czb—the same firm that assisted the City with the previous Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy (NRS) projects and experts on local government housing policy—has been hired to provide the necessary technical analysis, stakeholder outreach, and strategic recommendations. czb worked closely with City staff and City Council to develop a policy framework, a tool kit for implementation, and action steps to put the policies and tools to work.


Project Background

The City of Wheat Ridge has minimal policies related to housing affordability. Without this essential foundation, the City lacks direction on whether and how to take action to address affordability challenges. Recognizing this, the City applied for and was awarded a grant in October 2021 to create the City’s first Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan. The grant stems from the State Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Affordable Housing Planning Grant Program and Colorado House Bill 21-1271, which offers state assistance to local governments to promote the development of innovative affordable housing strategies.

The project is largely technical in nature with a comprehensive review of data, needs, gaps, and the variety of tools that can support different housing types.


Action Plan

The adopted Strategy prioritizes ten actions to address the issues identified. The list below is a brief summary of those actions that will be updated periodically as implementation progresses. The Strategy provides a more detailed summary of the action items and how they tie to Wheat Ridge's specific housing needs and opportunities.

Affordable Housing Strategy Action Item
(in order of priority)
Brief Description Status (February 2023)

Revise Zoning Framework for Community Benefit

Require all projects in mixed-use districts to either produce mixed-use or inclusionary affordable housing, and establish a new R-4 district with inclusionary requirements.City staff analyzing options to bring to City Council in Q2 2023.
Wheat Ridge Housing Fund
A dedicated fund to receive, hold, and deploy financial resources specifically in support of affordable housing activities.City Council approved new housing fund on January 9, 2023.
Housing-Supportive Code AmendmentsAmend the City’s code to support affordable housing development in areas such as: process, fees, parking minimums, “no net loss,” etc.City Council study session to provide direction on this topic on February 6, 2023.
Continue Lutheran Legacy Implementation Efforts
Continue preparing for the eventual Lutheran redevelopment and set clear expectations.City Council and Renewal Wheat Ridge are currently evaluating an Urban Renewal Plan for the campus. Actions will be ongoing on this large, multi-year redevelopment.
Housing StaffHire a staff person dedicated to housing program management.City staff analyzing options in Q2 2023.
Comprehensive Plan UpdateUse the comprehensive plan process to reaffirm community support for affordable housing goals and establish community’s vision for growth and development.City staff are developing a scope of work for the comprehensive plan and planning to bring to City Council in Q2 2023.
Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH) Preservation ProgramA program to make grants from the Wheat Ridge Housing Fund to rental property owners to upgrade aging rental units in exchange for affordable rents.Not started (needs preceding action items first to develop this program)
Update Development Code and Zoning MapFollowing the update to the comprehensive plan, update the City’s code and zoning map to reflect the plan.The community-wide discussion of whether, where, and how to accommodate new housing is best suited for the comprehensive plan where public engagement will play an important role.Not started (needs preceding action items first)
Exploration of Changes to Charter Limits on Height and DensityFollowing the update to the comprehensive plan, establish a commission to study the possibility of amending the City Charter’s current limits on height and density in order to make a recommendation for a potential ballot question.Not started (needs preceding action items first)

Update Affordable Housing Strategy and Action PlanUpdate this document to respond to new conditions and events.Not started (needs preceding action items first)

City Council adopted the Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan on January 9, 2023, as a guiding document to address housing affordability in Wheat Ridge. The process started in early 2022 and included opportunities for public input, discussions with over 20 housing developers, and four City Council discussions in 2022. The Strategy can be found here and an abbreviated version of the work plan is below that will be updated regularly as implementation progresses. You can also watch a three-part video series about the document and its findings here.

If you have questions about the strategy, please join us for our virtual office hours on Wednesday, February 15 or Thursday, February 16 to ask questions and discuss the document.

Wednesday, February 15 | noon-1:00 p.m. | https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89558143387
Thursday, February 16 | 5-6 p.m. |
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989415610


Housing Affordability in Wheat Ridge

In the mid-2000s, Wheat Ridge faced a lack of economic development opportunities and homeowner investment that concerned local leaders. Development opportunities that could improve the community were regularly choosing nearby cities instead of Wheat Ridge. Consequently, City officials made it a top priority at that time to improve the community’s quality of life and economic health while increasing its competitive position within the Denver region. Wheat Ridge was at a crossroads.

In those days before the Great Financial Crisis of 2008, a house in Wheat Ridge was relatively affordable. Fast forward to 2022 and things are more than a little bit different.

The median price for a house in Wheat Ridge is approaching $600,000 and the rental market is pushing one- and two-bedroom rents beyond $1,100 and $1,400 respectively. That means a new buyer household in Wheat Ridge likely needs an income of at least $150,000 per year (vs the 2020 median household owner income of $91,000) to afford a house. A renter needs an income of $56,000 to afford the median priced two-bedroom apartment (vs the 2020 median renter income of $42,000).

As of 2020, more than half of all Wheat Ridge renter households paid 30% or more of their household income toward housing costs. This is the government definition of unaffordability, or a “cost-burdened” household. Nearly one in four current Wheat Ridge owner households face similar affordability challenges, but the problem is more pronounced for new buyers today. New buyers likely have to have incomes in the top 20% of all U.S. households in order to purchase a house in Wheat Ridge.

This is new territory for Wheat Ridge, which as recently as five years ago was still working to revitalize itself and become more attractive and competitive within the Denver region. The strengthening local market is helpful in that regard, but City leaders are beginning to ask about the downsides of this good fortune.

This is the context within which the City has begun a new project–the Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan. It represents the first time the City of Wheat Ridge will specifically study housing affordability in the community and craft a policy approach toward whatever challenges are identified.


Project Basics

The purpose of the Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan is to:

  • Assess housing affordability challenges in the community;
  • Identify potential tools and resources that could help address challenges if they exist; and
  • Outline action steps that match the right tools and resources to the challenges.

The consulting firm czb—the same firm that assisted the City with the previous Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy (NRS) projects and experts on local government housing policy—has been hired to provide the necessary technical analysis, stakeholder outreach, and strategic recommendations. czb worked closely with City staff and City Council to develop a policy framework, a tool kit for implementation, and action steps to put the policies and tools to work.


Project Background

The City of Wheat Ridge has minimal policies related to housing affordability. Without this essential foundation, the City lacks direction on whether and how to take action to address affordability challenges. Recognizing this, the City applied for and was awarded a grant in October 2021 to create the City’s first Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan. The grant stems from the State Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Affordable Housing Planning Grant Program and Colorado House Bill 21-1271, which offers state assistance to local governments to promote the development of innovative affordable housing strategies.

The project is largely technical in nature with a comprehensive review of data, needs, gaps, and the variety of tools that can support different housing types.


Action Plan

The adopted Strategy prioritizes ten actions to address the issues identified. The list below is a brief summary of those actions that will be updated periodically as implementation progresses. The Strategy provides a more detailed summary of the action items and how they tie to Wheat Ridge's specific housing needs and opportunities.

Affordable Housing Strategy Action Item
(in order of priority)
Brief Description Status (February 2023)

Revise Zoning Framework for Community Benefit

Require all projects in mixed-use districts to either produce mixed-use or inclusionary affordable housing, and establish a new R-4 district with inclusionary requirements.City staff analyzing options to bring to City Council in Q2 2023.
Wheat Ridge Housing Fund
A dedicated fund to receive, hold, and deploy financial resources specifically in support of affordable housing activities.City Council approved new housing fund on January 9, 2023.
Housing-Supportive Code AmendmentsAmend the City’s code to support affordable housing development in areas such as: process, fees, parking minimums, “no net loss,” etc.City Council study session to provide direction on this topic on February 6, 2023.
Continue Lutheran Legacy Implementation Efforts
Continue preparing for the eventual Lutheran redevelopment and set clear expectations.City Council and Renewal Wheat Ridge are currently evaluating an Urban Renewal Plan for the campus. Actions will be ongoing on this large, multi-year redevelopment.
Housing StaffHire a staff person dedicated to housing program management.City staff analyzing options in Q2 2023.
Comprehensive Plan UpdateUse the comprehensive plan process to reaffirm community support for affordable housing goals and establish community’s vision for growth and development.City staff are developing a scope of work for the comprehensive plan and planning to bring to City Council in Q2 2023.
Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH) Preservation ProgramA program to make grants from the Wheat Ridge Housing Fund to rental property owners to upgrade aging rental units in exchange for affordable rents.Not started (needs preceding action items first to develop this program)
Update Development Code and Zoning MapFollowing the update to the comprehensive plan, update the City’s code and zoning map to reflect the plan.The community-wide discussion of whether, where, and how to accommodate new housing is best suited for the comprehensive plan where public engagement will play an important role.Not started (needs preceding action items first)
Exploration of Changes to Charter Limits on Height and DensityFollowing the update to the comprehensive plan, establish a commission to study the possibility of amending the City Charter’s current limits on height and density in order to make a recommendation for a potential ballot question.Not started (needs preceding action items first)

Update Affordable Housing Strategy and Action PlanUpdate this document to respond to new conditions and events.Not started (needs preceding action items first)

Question About the Project?

If you have a question about this project, either post it here or email the "Who's Listening" staff members above, and we'll get back to you within one business day.  

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  • Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Email this link

    There are a lot of different condos, apartments, townhouses being built in Wheat Ridge. For example, at 38th and Wads next to the old Lucky's (apartments), on 29th in between Sheridan and Wads (townhouses), and again on 38th next "the Green" (apartments). Can you give detailed information on % occupancy of these different projects? I think we need to consider how well received these current projects have been before planning any more apartments, condos, townhouses in the area. From an onlooker driving by there seems to be low occupancy. However, I actually have no clue if these projects are full of occupants. Thank you

    Caro asked 8 months ago

    Thanks for your insightful question.  We've flagged this for consideration in doing the analysis, if it hadn't been already.  

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    Thank you for taking on this important project, it is vital to the people in our community and for the well-being of our community! Question: How will this strategy interface with the City's policies and actions to help the homeless and nearly homeless? Question: Will the City consider differing levels of defining "affordable"? One definition can be for what we might call typical renters and home buyers. One definition, or category, can be for the homeless or nearly homeless who have no income or only minimal income. Question: How should the WR Urban Renewal Authority for the City consider the need for truly affordable housing in making investment decisions related to housing?

    Marcia asked 8 months ago

    Hello and thank you for the thoughtful question.  This strategy will look at the spectrum of housing need, and where the City could have the most impact - taking into account existing programs we already have underway.  The City has a fairly recently created Homelessness Program you can check out at: whatsupwheatridge.com/homelessness-is-a-shared-responsibility.  With this new homelessness program, this Affordable Housing Strategy will mostly be focused on the other needs along the housing spectrum - ranging from low income to above median income (as the area median income is now less than what one needs to "afford" a house, as explained on this page a bit more). 

    As for the City's Urban Renewal Authority, this project is exploring all the tools at the City's disposal to address the issue in the most impactful way that aligns with the identified needs (there will be a detailed needs assessment report as part of this). That is a good thought to make sure we're considering what, if any, their role could be as we look at the range of tools.  

Page last updated: 07 Feb 2023, 11:37 AM