Greetings Members, Supporters, and Followers,
YIMBY Denver was founded in the waning months of 2016 by a group of people with the goal of legalizing multi-unit homes citywide. We were concerned that single-family zoning rules that ban new housing in our core neighborhoods were fueling rapidly rising housing prices and encouraging unsustainable suburban sprawl. We saw opposition to infill housing at city council public comment sessions that was unreflective of the desires and needs of our city’s population at large. We knew we needed to fill a desperately needed advocacy void. We had to organize and rally everyone who stands to benefit from housing abundance to counter the NIMBY scarcity mentality and say Yes In My Backyard!
Thanks to the passions and efforts of our dedicated volunteers over the past seven years, we have done so with great volume and vigor, and now in 2024, we are on the cusp of systemic housing policy reform both in Denver and across the state of Colorado.
I would like to take the opportunity to reflect on our achievements and setbacks in 2023 and provide a preview of what is to come in this new year.
We knew going into 2023 that it would be a watershed year for our organization. For the first time in Colorado history, the state government was considering legislation to effectively end single-family zoning statewide. Simultaneously, campaigns for all thirteen Denver city council seats were underway, along with the first wide-open mayoral race in a dozen years. The stakes had never been higher. If we effectively mobilized our base of activists and members, we could tear down barriers to housing production statewide and elect a local government in Denver prepared to face the housing crisis head-on.
The advocacy and educational work YIMBY Denver had done over the years was starting to pay off in a big way. With home prices having doubled since we were founded, and the number of unhoused Denverites being greater than ever, our issues were at the forefront of peoples’ minds. Voters and leaders recognized that we desperately needed more housing where people wanted to live. Instead of being a fringe organization yelling from the sidelines, the powers that be and candidates for office, including Mayor-to-be Mike Johnston, began to solicit our opinions and court our endorsement. It was a busy first six months of the year, with the state legislative session lasting till May, and municipal elections in April and June.
After a candidate questionnaire, Leads voted to endorse (with membership ratification), resulting in endorsements for City Council and Mayor. After a massive door-knocking and phone-banking effort, five of our nine endorsed council candidates won their races, and most excitingly, Mike Johnston won the mayoral race. In the course of these campaigns, we have built strong relationships with all of these newly elected officials. We are already working with them on a robust housing policy agenda for 2024. Maddingly, the Park Hill Golf Course question was rejected at the ballot. Even so, considering the promise of our new local elected officials, I believe the future is bright in Denver.
Aside from Governor Polis’s State of the State address, where he mentioned “housing” more times than I could count, things were kept behind the scenes until they publicly unveiled SB23-213 “Land Use” in April. The bill would have, among other things, legalized six-plexes in every major municipality, allowed even more density along transit corridors, legalized ADUs, and abolished parking requirements. It was like Christmas for YIMBYs! We organized a large turnout at the Capitol to testify in favor, but unfortunately, with only a month left in the session for lawmakers to wrangle with this unprecedented legislation and with localities in fierce opposition, even a watered-down bill was ultimately unable to pass both chambers. On a positive note though, a separate bill forbidding growth caps did pass, meaning that places like Golden, Lakewood, and Boulder can no longer arbitrarily limit residential permits by formula.
YIMBY Denver is not distraught by the failure of SB23-213. In contrast, we are thrilled that the governor and much of the state legislature now believe that the state should remove local barriers to housing production. This was not a discussion at the state level in past years and the fact that it is gives us plenty of reason to hope we will see major state housing policy reforms pass in the coming years.
In addition to our state legislative and local election efforts, we also had several great events in 2023, including:
- Co-hosting US Representative Brittany Pettersen and State Representative Iman Jodeh with the Denver New Liberals to discuss federal and state housing legislation.
- Co-hosting with the CU College of Architecture and Planning Henry Grabar, author of Paved Paradise: How Parking Explains the World.
- Co-hosting with the CU College of Architecture and Planning State Representatives Stephen Woodrow and Ruby Dixon
- Hosting and co-hosting electoral phone banks, canvassing, and election night watch parties.
- Hosting trivia night.
- Hosting many happy hours.
- Walking tour with Sierra Club.
- Tabling Juneteenth and Viva Streets.
We look forward to continuing to host more great events in 2024, including a Legislative Kickoff on February 15th to get us organized for statehouse activism. I hope to see you there!
In 2023 we also achieved a longtime goal of ours: the hiring of dedicated staff. Connor Riley serves as a part-time Chapter Organizer of YIMBY Denver, handling many administrative and logistical tasks so the rest of us volunteers can focus more on our core advocacy work. Further, to enhance our effectiveness in carrying out our advocacy mission, we have organized our volunteer Leads Council into a committee structure as follows:
- President - Ryan Keeney
- Vice President - Frank Locantore
- Secretary - Anna De Witt
- Treasurer - Jonatha Pira
- Chair - Abe Kaul
- Chair - Matt Larsen
- Chair - Luchia Brown
When YIMBY Denver was founded in 2016, our agenda was not the agenda of our political leaders. Now the Overton Window has moved and talk of unwinding housing bans and densifying our communities is on the lips of politicians from the Denver City-County Building to the Colorado State Capitol. In the face of the global climate crisis and nationally eroding democratic norms, it is my involvement with YIMBY Denver that helps to keep me grounded and has me convinced that anyone who puts their mind to it has the power to change the course of history.
I encourage any of you who believe in a future of housing abundance to get involved with us to make that vision a reality. Become a member at yimbydenver.org or send us an email at [email protected]. We are a people-powered organization engaged in a political project to win hearts and minds. If we succeed, we will see in the coming decades a Colorado where everyone can afford a home where they want; close to amenities, jobs, and sustainable transportation infrastructure.
Whatever your relationship with YIMBY Denver, thank you for your involvement, and happy new year! Onward.
President, YIMBY Denver