The “LIVE” in LIVE Denver is an acronym for the Lower Income Voucher Equity program funded by the city, foundations, and employers. Introduced in 2017 and garnering coverage throughout the country, the initiative still receives continuing promotion by Denver leaders at housing conferences throughout the country.
Has LIVE Denver lived up to the past and present hype?
Denver’s rapid population surge saw rent skyrocket from an average of $776 in 2009 to $1,286 in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, income growth, while impressive, is not keeping up. Many residents of the Mile-High City are shelling out nearly a third of their income on housing.
LIVE Denver focuses on helping residents who make too much for rent assistance, but not enough to pay to live in the city. Unlike voucher programs plagued with long wait times and limited options, LIVE Denver claims to offer a more streamlined process.
Based on current participation rates, LIVE Denver seems to be on life support. Promises of 400 vacant apartments filled with occupants have fallen to approximately 100.
Two years after the launch, the current number is at three.
Leaders are encouraging patience, declaring that they are taking a slower, more thoughtful approach to the rollout to ensure its long-term success.
Setbacks have not helped. Missteps have taken various forms and include:
- Partnerships with luxury apartment building owners not coming to fruition
- The first Director of Housing Policy resigning out of frustration with city leadership
- A lack of housing experts with the insight to deal with federal housing authorities
- No full-time staff to grow vital developer-employer relationships and grow the program
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rejecting a plan to pair both federal housing vouchers and LIVE Denver funds
LIVE Denver’s strategies are not soothing the frustration of supporters in the private sector. Progress is slow and not steady. The only growth seems to be concerns that committed leadership and resources are lacking. In spite of a project described as interesting and innovative, they fear indifference.
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