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.


Housing Affordability in Wheat RidgeCover page of Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan

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 began a new project–the Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan. It represents the first time the City of Wheat Ridge specifically studied housing affordability in the community and crafted a policy approach toward addressing the issue.


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—experts on local government housing policy—were 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.


Accomplishments and Action Plan

The City has advanced several best practices and has taken decisive action to advance housing affordability in Wheat Ridge. This includes:

  • Created the Wheat Ridge Housing Fund and dedicated a portion of short term rental lodgers tax to the fund
  • Filed a commitment to grow the City’s affordable housing stock by 3% annually in accordance with Proposition 123 and providing eligibility for state funding
  • Provided gap funding from the WR Housing Fund to Foothills Regional Housing (FRH) to enable acquisition of the Vance Street Lofts
  • Approved land sale of the Bank of the West property at 44th and Wadsworth to FRH to enable a logical site design and uniform site control for a proposed mixed-income, multi-phase project called The Ives
  • Modified the code to allow accessory dwelling units
  • Modified the code to reduce parking requirement for deed restricted affordable housing units
  • Modified the code to waive park fees for deed restricted affordable housing units

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 (May 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 are planning to use remaining state grant funds to analyze and create a framework for an inclusionary program.
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 staff are bringing a code amendment for parking reductions for affordable housing to city council in July 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 council approved this new position on May 22, 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 on July 24, 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.Currently evaluating options, including using remaining state grant funds to analyze a framework for such a 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.


Housing Affordability in Wheat RidgeCover page of Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan

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 began a new project–the Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan. It represents the first time the City of Wheat Ridge specifically studied housing affordability in the community and crafted a policy approach toward addressing the issue.


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—experts on local government housing policy—were 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.


Accomplishments and Action Plan

The City has advanced several best practices and has taken decisive action to advance housing affordability in Wheat Ridge. This includes:

  • Created the Wheat Ridge Housing Fund and dedicated a portion of short term rental lodgers tax to the fund
  • Filed a commitment to grow the City’s affordable housing stock by 3% annually in accordance with Proposition 123 and providing eligibility for state funding
  • Provided gap funding from the WR Housing Fund to Foothills Regional Housing (FRH) to enable acquisition of the Vance Street Lofts
  • Approved land sale of the Bank of the West property at 44th and Wadsworth to FRH to enable a logical site design and uniform site control for a proposed mixed-income, multi-phase project called The Ives
  • Modified the code to allow accessory dwelling units
  • Modified the code to reduce parking requirement for deed restricted affordable housing units
  • Modified the code to waive park fees for deed restricted affordable housing units

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 (May 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 are planning to use remaining state grant funds to analyze and create a framework for an inclusionary program.
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 staff are bringing a code amendment for parking reductions for affordable housing to city council in July 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 council approved this new position on May 22, 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 on July 24, 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.Currently evaluating options, including using remaining state grant funds to analyze a framework for such a 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 I currently rent in Wheat Ridge and it's my dream to buy a home. I make $56k/yr, single, two kiddos. We've lived here for 5 years and my daughter goes to school here. I was hoping to buy a condo about 5 years ago but wasn't quite ready. Now if I want to buy and stop throwing money away every month but buying here seems unattainable. I don't know where to start. Are there any agencies or programs that can help me toward buying in this area we love? on Facebook Share I currently rent in Wheat Ridge and it's my dream to buy a home. I make $56k/yr, single, two kiddos. We've lived here for 5 years and my daughter goes to school here. I was hoping to buy a condo about 5 years ago but wasn't quite ready. Now if I want to buy and stop throwing money away every month but buying here seems unattainable. I don't know where to start. Are there any agencies or programs that can help me toward buying in this area we love? on Twitter Share I currently rent in Wheat Ridge and it's my dream to buy a home. I make $56k/yr, single, two kiddos. We've lived here for 5 years and my daughter goes to school here. I was hoping to buy a condo about 5 years ago but wasn't quite ready. Now if I want to buy and stop throwing money away every month but buying here seems unattainable. I don't know where to start. Are there any agencies or programs that can help me toward buying in this area we love? on Linkedin Email I currently rent in Wheat Ridge and it's my dream to buy a home. I make $56k/yr, single, two kiddos. We've lived here for 5 years and my daughter goes to school here. I was hoping to buy a condo about 5 years ago but wasn't quite ready. Now if I want to buy and stop throwing money away every month but buying here seems unattainable. I don't know where to start. Are there any agencies or programs that can help me toward buying in this area we love? link

    I currently rent in Wheat Ridge and it's my dream to buy a home. I make $56k/yr, single, two kiddos. We've lived here for 5 years and my daughter goes to school here. I was hoping to buy a condo about 5 years ago but wasn't quite ready. Now if I want to buy and stop throwing money away every month but buying here seems unattainable. I don't know where to start. Are there any agencies or programs that can help me toward buying in this area we love?

    Samiam asked about 1 month ago

    There are a number of programs offered by public and private agencies. Although the City of Wheat Ridge does not currently offer direct assistance, here are a few resources:

    • Metro Down Payment Assistance (metroDPA) - The City participates in the metroDPA program. If you make up to $176,700 a year and have a credit score above 640, metroDPA can help with a home loan and down payment assistance to help you buy a home. You may receive up to 5% of the mortgage loan amount for your down payment – with no interest and you don’t have to pay it back if you stay in the home for three years. A qualified lender coordinates the financing and can help you prequalify. Find out more about the program or get the name of a lender on the metroDPA website
    • Mile High United Way Help Center - The 211 Help Center is a multilingual and confidential service that connects individuals to critical resources including food, shelter, rental assistance, childcare, and more. The United Way's 211 database contains more than 7,000 health and human resources and is updated daily to help community members meet basic needs. Dial 2-1-1 to reach the help center or visit the Denver United way website.
    • Foothills Regional Housing (FRH) - Formerly known as the Jefferson County Housing Authority, FRH develops, owns, and operates housing throughout Jefferson County including in Wheat Ridge. Their housing including income-restricted, senior, and market rate; and FRH manages a housing voucher program as well. Dial 303-422-8600 or visit the Foothills Regional Housing website
    • Colorado Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) https://www.chfainfo.com/homeownership
    • Colorado Housing Assistance Corporation (CHAC) Real Estate Financial Assistance in Denver, CO | CHAC (chaconline.org)
    • First Time Homebuyer Program – federal programs offered by the Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Homeownership Assistance: Colorado | HUD.gov / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),  United States Rural Development (USDA),; Non-profits such as Habitat for Humanity; several private lenders, such as lendstart and homebuyer
  • Share 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 on Facebook Share 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 on Twitter Share 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 on Linkedin Email 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 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 almost 2 years ago

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

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

    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 almost 2 years 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: 22 Apr 2024, 02:18 PM