As Denver metro housing prices continue to rise, so also does the community focus on affordable housing. The Front Porch offers this overview of recent activities affecting affordable housing in northeast Denver.
SDC Calls for Special Meeting on Affordable Housing at Stapleton
At its Dec. 7 meeting, a majority of Stapleton Development Corporation (SDC) members called for a special meeting with the city to discuss the status of affordable housing in Stapleton. They requested the meeting take place within 30 days or as soon as possible. The request followed a presentation by Tom Gleason of Forest City on the status of the developer’s progress toward meeting the company’s affordable housing obligations under its development agreement with the city. Those may generally be described as a requirement to provide 10 percent of all for-sale units as affordable units (firm contractual number) and 33 percent of all units as rentals (not a contractually required amount) with 20 percent of rentals being affordable (contractual number). At present, 6.8 percent of for-sale units are affordable. Rentals stand at 32 percent of total supply but only 17 percent of rentals are affordable. Committee members said time is running out with Stapleton at more than 64 percent buildout. They challenged Gleason’s statement that the supply of affordable housing in Stapleton is “market driven,” saying the demand exists for all types of housing.
City Housing Director Provides Update on Stapleton Affordable Housing
The Front Porch interviewed Denver’s director of housing and neighborhood development on Dec. 14 to see where things stand with the analysis of Forest City’s performance and with other items such as the Stapleton Foundation’s interest in preserving existing affordable housing units in Stapleton. Rick Padilla said the analysis of land set-asides and development pacing continues and that his office continues to work with Forest City to “boost production and attract more development partners.” He said his last meeting with Forest City was in August and hopes for a meeting in January to continue discussions. He said he is “very much interested in pursuing the opportunity” represented by the foundation’s proposal to use some of its funding for affordable housing preservation. The source of that funding is the community investment fee collected each time properties in Stapleton are sold (0.25 percent of the sales price after the first $100,000).
Council Considers Housing Plan
A Denver City Council committee met Dec. 6 to consider “Housing an Inclusive Denver,” its first long-term plan since creation of the city’s 10-year, $150 million housing fund last year. Members of the Safety, Housing, Education and Homeless Committee (aka “SafeHouse Committee) urged city staff to revise the plan to include more specifics and be more aggressive. The Front Porch notes that the plan speaks to a city goal of preserving 1,000 affordable units by 2023 citywide. With 90 percent of the preserved units designated as rentals, this means the city goal is limited to preserving 100 for-sale affordable units in that time frame. Stapleton alone has nearly 400 deed-restricted units, the first of which will begin timing out next year. The SafeHouse Committee also heard a proposal from All in Denver to present voters an affordable housing bond issue in the fall of 2018 to generate additional dollars upfront to address the affordable housing crisis. City finance staff expressed some reservations about the proposal, which will undergo further consideration by the committee and the city’s new Housing Advisory Committee.
Elevation Community Land Trust Announced
A coalition of nonprofits and foundations announced the creation of a land trust to buy and build housing units that would remain permanently affordable. Led by Gary Community Investments, the group has garnered $24 million in commitments and hopes to provide about 700 housing units in the Denver area over the next five years. A land trust owns the land on which units sit. The units are sold to homeowners who are subject to a long-term land lease. Taking land out of the equation significantly reduces the unit cost. This was the approach used in the Lowry redevelopment through the Colorado Community Land Trust, but has not been used in Stapleton. The Globeville-Elyira-Swansea neighborhoods (GES) have approached the city with a request for $3 million to set up their own land trust but no decision has been made. Interestingly, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has committed $2 million for affordable housing in GES as part of its effort to mitigate the impacts of the I-70 widening project known as Central 70. CDOT will be issuing a request for proposals (RFP) in January for the best ideas on how to implement that contribution. It is possible that all of those monies could be funneled to a land trust serving the GES neighborhoods.
Affordable Housing for Veterans in Stapleton
A new affordable housing project in Stapleton, the Moline Apartments, will include 11 units set aside for veterans at 30 percent and 40 percent of area median income (AMI), most of whom will qualify as homeless households. (This project was originally profiled in the November 2017 Front Porch; see https://frontporchne.com/article/180-affordable-apartments-come-mlkmoline26th/). Dominique Acevedo of Northeast Denver Housing Center says the project will also include 11 units for households with disabilities among the 180 total units. The project will be located at the southeast corner of MLK Blvd. and Moline Street and is slated to be under construction starting in January.