The Denver City Council will vote Monday whether to extend the mayor’s emergency declaration over homelessness in the city. Meantime, the mayor has outlined his budget for 2024.
Despite his lofty plans to end homelessness in his first term, it won’t be at the cost of other city services. The Department of Housing Stability already has a quarter of a billion-dollar budget for 2023. Most of the money spent on housing 1,000 people by the end of this year has already been allocated in that budget.
The mayor breaks down his 2024 budget into five parts: Affordable Denver, Safe Denver, Vibrant Denver, Greener Denver and “Housing for all.” The 2024 general fund is $1.74 billion.
During a news conference, Johnston emphasized that crime in Denver is at a 20-year high, and the resources dedicated to fighting it must be robust. He will spend $8.2 million on 167 new police recruits in 2024, according to his budget. He’s also expanding non-criminal first responder programs such as STAR, which he hopes to ramp up to 24/7 service with eight vans by 2025. The city also plans to add a second “Wellness Winnie,” a recreational vehicle that’s a roving health center.
Other budget highlights include converting office space to residential housing units, continuing to work on 16th Street Mall for 2025 completion and energizing the city’s electric car charging infrastructure.
Making downtown safe again
“Our downtown faces among the highest commercial vacancy rates of any city in the nation. Reversing this trend will require a coordinated effort to revitalize not only the central business district but create a central neighborhood district where people of all income levels gather year-round,” the mayor highlights in a letter accompanying his budget. “That vision requires aggressive steps to reactivate our downtown business corridor to make downtown the best place to live, work and play in all of the Rocky Mountain West.
“A significant part of this reactivation starts with our plan on homelessness. We know the first step to revitalizing downtown is helping people experiencing homelessness get access to housing and then permanently closing encampments, while simultaneously working shoulder-to-shoulder with businesses and neighborhoods to reactivate these spaces and make downtown a vibrant neighborhood that is the economic, residential, and cultural center of our city. To meet that goal, our budget invests $58 million toward downtown revitalization.”
In his budget letter, Johnston repeatedly refers to the “crisis” of homelessness. “In the last five years, the number of people experiencing homelessness in our city has nearly tripled, and almost 1,000 Denverites have died on the streets of our city,” the mayor writes. “We are mutually committed to two values: we believe that we have a moral obligation to ensure everyone has access to stable, dignified housing with the services they need to get back on their feet, and we also believe that every resident of Denver deserves to feel safe where they live, work, and play while having shared, safe access to all of our sidewalks, parks, and public spaces.”
Residents can follow along with the city's budget process online.