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Developers all over are aware of the demand and need for more housing in the Denver Metropolitan Area, but many have turned away from the prospect. Why? The rules and regulations, numerous and constantly changing, are creating a place where such builds are a challenge. The Denverite even has interviewed well-known developers about their perspective only to find that many of them have moved away from multifamily housing projects and properties that could help ease the housing demand. Some have quit building multifamily housing projects instead create million-dollar single-family custom homes. Residential new construction for single-family homes is a fair bit easier in terms of regulation and timeline. The bottom line is, the City of Denver has made the permitting process overly cumbersome for building larger projects in the county. Building those types of projects does not make sense when developing in Denver when the timeline for just simply getting to break ground takes months to years. And as a result, Denverites are seeing a great squeeze in supply for affordable housing.

These review times, regulations, permitting hoops to jump through are very much required. These steps for developing in Denver are in place to ensure the finished project is designed for the future infrastructure, the safety of residents, and more. Even more, the city planning department claims that last year they have kept their initial review time projections.

Initial permitting applications are taking an average of four weeks to process, according to Denver Development Services. As of September, 82% of commercial reviews were completed on time (compared to just 10% of residential reviews) By mid-October, developers have already built more units of multifamily housing (5,158) than they have since 2017.”

With those claims, it is hard to understand why so many developers feel as though they cannot keep an accurate timeline for a larger scope project to start. Regardless, the head of the planning department, Chris Gleissner, gives a different perspective of who is responsible for longer permitting times – the people of Denver. The Department of Planning and Development is not the one setting up rules and regulations; voters, city councils, and neighborhoods are the ones who cast their votes for what their communities will look like and what safety measures are to be in place. 

The argument for deregulation still aims to combat; overbearing rules, overall cost for these projects and speeding up the permitting and inspection process. The main goal for this deregulation is to increase the amount of housing which will decrease the demand and in turn, will make the prices go down. Something the residents of Denver have been calling for a long time.

With the City deferring the blame to the people, developers struggle to re-enter the multifamily construction sector unless they have a larger, more expensive investor project lined up. Even so, there are still a good number of new commercial construction projects that are making waves in local news. The project for Denver’s Loretto Heights is a redevelopment of a former dormitory and school in order to create affordable housing through multifamily construction. More recently, One River North, is preparing to break ground which is a revolutionary build bringing 193 apartment homes, restaurant, retail and parking to RiNo District of Denver.

For now, commercial construction and multifamily developments will continue at this pace within Denver. Denver is still in need of a more housing and construction but we are grateful for the efforts to make new construction safe. However, the process for building a new apartment building or commercial development has grown cumbersome and is even causing troubles for residential construction. We can hope for better efficiencies in the future to help keep pace with demand.

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