Aug 1, 2023 - Business

Colorado's big-city mayors confront housing, homelessness

From left: Denver Mayor Mike Johnston, Boulder Mayor Aaron Brockett, Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman, and Colorado Springs Mayor Yemi Mobolade during the 2023 State of the City luncheon on July 27 in Denver. Photo: Courtesy of Dave Anderson at InSync Photography + Design

The mayors from Colorado's largest cities recently came together to share their plans for managing crucial issues affecting their cities.

Driving the news: Boulder Mayor Aaron Brockett, Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman, Denver Mayor Mike Johnston, and Colorado Springs Mayor Yemi Mobolade appeared together on stage during last week's Metro Chamber of Commerce State of the City luncheon.

Why it matters: All four mayors face similar challenges with homelessness, housing and affordability across the Front Range.

  • The panel focused on how they could work together to help manage those issues.

Threat level: Johnston said he doesn't want metro Denver to become like San Francisco, referencing a San Francisco Chronicle article calling it a "childless city" in part due to its high cost of living.

  • He said it's up to this group of leaders to make the Denver area a "thriving" place where people can work, play and start a business.

Between the lines: The mayors agreed that modular homes — prefabricated buildings that are often cheaper to build than traditional homes — and using 3D printing materials to drive down costs are methods each city should pursue to build more units.

  • Both Johnston and Brockett called for more condo development, noting that condos are now effectively the only starter home option in cities like Denver and Boulder due to the rising price of a single-family home.

Zoom in: Mobolade, who like Johnston is starting his first term as mayor, pointed to NIMBYs as the biggest threat to building more housing.

Be smart: NIMBY is an acronym for "not in my backyard," describing people who oppose new development in or around their neighborhood.

  • Mobolade said municipal leaders need to consider new ways to reach out to residents to convince them to support new housing builds; Johnston said the best approach to dealing with NIMBYs is reaching out early, before building or putting together projects like tiny home villages.

Zoom out: Brockett noted wraparound services providing housing and behavioral health treatment are crucial in helping some people exit homelessness, which is growing in the region.

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