Many new affordable housing projects are underway throughout Northeast Denver to reduce the housing deficit facing neighborhoods and increase the affordable options available for residents. The new projects have been implemented by non-profit organizations with funding assistance from the City.
The affordable housing problem has increased exponentially in the recent decade. During that time, the population of Denver soared, the rate of development slowed, and the intense demand for housing caused the values of properties to skyrocket. Also during that span, increases to the average wages of residents failed to keep pace with rising costs of housing. According to data compiled by the Common Sense Institute, between 2015-2022 the average mortgage price spiked by 202 percent while wages only rose by 37 percent.
“If we could raise people’s wages so they could earn enough, we wouldn’t need to lower the cost of their housing,” says Denver City Councilmember Robin Kniech. For the past 12 years Kniech has represented Denver as an at-large councilmember and is now completing her final year before being term-limited. “The price of housing went up as the population grew, but wage stagnation accompanied that and so we ended up with the gap.”
This gap has had a detrimental impact on Denver communities. In 2022, the National Association of Realtors listed Denver as one of the least affordable cities in the nation for residents earning middle-income wages of approximately $70,000. Aside from traditionally expensive California cities, Seattle and Denver were ranked as the least affordable cities for middle-class households. This could be contributing to the labor shortage in which many industries in the city have reported drastic shortages within their organizations. Denver is currently experiencing staff shortages among school teachers, hospital nurses, city workers, police officers, restaurant servers, and private-sector businesses.
“Our economy is not in balance,” says Kniech. “The journey has evolved from providing affordable housing as compassion for people in poverty, to a necessity for working families and moderate income families to be able to stay stable for the vibrancy of our city and the equilibrium of our economy. Now we’re at risk of our city not being able to function because we can’t afford housing for moderate income families, and that’s a significant change from when I took office.”
The urgency of the problem has encouraged non-profit organizations, the Denver City Council, and the Department of Housing Stability (HOST) to collaborate together while implementing several new affordable housing projects in Northeast Denver.
Central Park Condominiums
The Denver Affordable Housing Fund, sponsored by Kniech, is being used to help finance the Central Park Condominiums. Located on Central Park Avenue and 54th Street, this new affordable housing project will offer income-restricted ownership opportunities with 70 two-bedroom units that will be priced at $225K. The Central Park Condominiums are still under construction, but the property is expecting to welcome residents in early 2024.
The City Council also approved a $4.5 million loan to the Northfield Flats property. Located on 46th and Xenia, this four-story building will provide 129 units for residents within a particular Average Median Income (AMI) range. Affordable housing property managers often require renters to earn a certain percentage below the AMI to qualify for the available units. According to current Denver data, 30% of AMI is an annual earning of $25,000 and 80% is about $63,000. For Northfield Flats, the units will be available for people whose income is 30% to 80% of AMI.
The City Council also approved a loan of $4.4 million for the Montview Manor. This building, located on 17th and Steele, provides affordable housing units for moderate-income seniors. This is a 13-story building with 88 units along with a clubhouse, exercise center, and a rooftop that offers panoramic views of the city.
Montview Manor is owned and operated by Archway Communities, a non-profit that has been providing residents with affordable housing, educational programs, and community resources since 1995. Archway currently has 10 properties and over 650 units in the Denver Front Range, and the organization is now preserving Montview Manor as a permanently affordable building for seniors who are within 30% to 80% of AMI.
Archway Investments also recently acquired the four dorms on the Mosaic Campus of the former Johnson & Wales University. The non-profit is converting the dorms into affordable housing for individuals and families. Known as the Park Hill Family Campus, it will provide 154 units for individuals within 30% to 60% of AMI. The buildings are expected to open in
“The buildings are beautiful, historic, and in amazing condition with quality construction that’s way beyond what any developers could afford to build from scratch today,” says Julie Stern, the Director of Real Estate for Archway Communities. “But the campus also has access to education, entrepreneurship, and workforce development resources. And with the Kitchen Network right next door, we’re also excited to explore partnering with them, so it’s great to build housing in a way that’s part of something bigger.”
Urban Land Conservancy and Delwest Development
A partnership between the Urban Land Conservancy (ULC) and Delwest Development has led to an affordable housing project located on 38th and Holly. The $8 million loan that the City approved for Delwest, and the 253 units that will be provided by the project, make this the largest affordable housing project ever assisted by HOST. The project has just begun the construction process, but it is expecting to open in 2025 and it will serve residents who earn 30% to 60% of AMI.
“We’re always seeking to expand the diversity of the developer talent in the Denver metro area,” explains Sarah Harman, the Urban Land Conservancy’s Vice President of Real Estate. “Sometimes we buy the property and identify a development partner who’s motivated to do affordable housing and serve our mission. In other cases, we sell developers the rights to the lands with a stipulation for a certain amount of affordable housing.”
ULC currently invests in 52 properties throughout the Denver Metro area and offers 2,325 affordable units for renters and owners.
ULC is now focusing on the East Colfax neighborhood. The organization recently acquired a former bank building on Colfax and Ironton to transform the large property into what they call the ColfaxLab. The three-story building will be used as a space for nonprofits, the parking area will be used to develop affordable housing, and the Impact East Colfax steering committee was established through a collaboration with the Fax Partnership.
“We’ll identify and secure properties that can be either converted or preserved for affordable housing in that East Colfax corridor where there has been so much displacement,” says Harman. “When you have incredible investments coming in at the east end of Colfax, that can have ripple effects across the entire corridor.”