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Colorado big city mayors met to discuss homelessness, housing and economy

DENVER (KDVR)- The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce held its annual State of the City event Thursday.

Denver’s new mayor was not the only one in attendance. Mayors of Boulder Aurora and Colorado Springs’ new mayor were also on hand to talk about the most major issues facing their cities.

There has been a lot of talk surrounding homelessness and housing in Denver lately.
At the panel discussion, all four mayors agreed: it is a major issue facing the state.

“My script says let’s shift our focus but we are going to just continue our focus on housing, which all of Colorado is struggling with, clearly,” said former Thornton Mayor Heidi Williams while moderating the discussion.

The struggle for affordable housing options for Colorado was center stage.

“We have consistently shown up in the top 10 of the most desirable, best cities to live in the United States over the last five years. Now that’s changing because of the same challenges many of us are facing with regards to housing, affordability, homelessness and beyond,”
said Colorado Springs Mayor Yemi Mobolade.

The mayors said the lack of housing is deterring people from living in their communities.
Some said laws at the state level need to change, but until then, they’re working on solutions at the city level.

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston detailed his emergency declaration for homelessness and the implementation of that plan, calling on Denver’s business community for help.

“We’re going to need your help in identifying locations and sites,” Johnston said. “If you can help us solve that math problem, we can get 1,000 people off the streets and into housing.”

He added, “We will also need your help in thinking about how we reactivate the public spaces of this city when we are able to move people from living outdoors to living in housing.”

The chamber’s CEO, J.J. Ament, said the chamber will help with the plan however they can.

“I think our businesses are willing to find commercial spaces that can be reused. We’re willing to support the mayor when he goes into communities and says this is a place we can build,” Ament said. “We’re certainly willing to support any effort that we can to modernize and make more efficient the permitting entitlement zoning process so that we can deliver to market more quickly.”

Ament said housing is too expensive for workers and families to grow in the state, but he is encouraged by the willingness to address some policy barriers to these challenges.

“Clearly we have to address homelessness. It’s not something that we want from a humanitarian point of view, it certainly compensates our economic competitiveness. So making sure we have housing, making sure we have treatment, those are essential issues for downtown,” said Ament.

“We compete in markets, there are other regions around the United States that would love to have metro Denver’s economy or the state of Colorado’s economy and they are aggressive,” he said. “So we need to make sure that we have public policy in place that allows our companies to also thrive so that we can be competitive and our kids can have great jobs right here at home and don’t have to move away to find their first home or their best job.”

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