Denver’s new group living rules will be challenged in November election

Denver voters — not the city council — will be the final arbiters this November of whether up to five unrelated people can live in a single home.

Officials certified enough signatures collected by Safe and Sound Denver to place the referendum on the city council’s February 11-2 decision on the ballot, Denver’s Elections Division announced Monday. Voters will also be deciding whether to overturn expanding the number of available plots in the city for halfway homes, which were previously only allowed in industrial areas.

Safe and Sound Denver has been an outspoken opponent of the group living rules since city officials began exploring the idea in 2018. Previously, only two unrelated people could live in a home together in Denver, the lowest group-living limits for a metro this size in the country.

Representatives from Safe and Sound Denver didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

They have argued that both increased group living numbers and allowing halfway homes outside of industrial areas would harm neighborhoods. They also took issue with the years-long process city officials held while developing the new policies.

But city housing and community corrections officials disputed those claims, noting that no matter the group-living limits in a given city, the average number of people living in a home remains about the same. Plus, expanding the number of available places where halfway houses can be built gives people who are transitioning back into society a better chance at turning their lives around, they said.

Council members and city residents discussed the changes for hours in February and many people detailed how hard it’s been to pay rent in an increasingly expensive city.

The median price for an apartment in Denver was $1,640 in May, more than 25% of an average household’s monthly pay. And about 13% of Denver’s population makes below the federal poverty line of about $27,000 for a family of four.

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