Vince BzdekVince BzdekFebruary 20, 20186min529

Colorado Springs has always prided itself on lower housing prices than other Front Range cities, but that has changed fast in the last couple years. As the city's housing market has gone white-hot, affordable housing has suddenly become scarce as playoff wins for the Broncos in the last two years, fueling the city's homeless problem and creating a price crisis for lower- and even middle-income residents.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchFebruary 15, 20183min757

Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne will be talking about affordable housing away from her own homestarting Friday, with town hall meetings in Denver, Boulder, Pueblo, Cañon City, Carbondale, Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs and Steamboat Springs.

Lynne is the state’s chief operating officer and in her spare time she’s a Democratic candidate for governor, hoping to take over when Gov. John Hickenlooper’s final term ends next January.

Her office said Lynne has traveled to all Colorado 64 counties. The high cost of a roof overhead is an issue that affects the whole state, not just the heavily populated Front Range.

“The increasing cost of housing and lack of available inventory is a burden for Colorado families across the income spectrum and in all parts of the state.” Lynne said in a statement. “Improving on the progress we’ve made as a state in the last decade requires that we take a hard look at economic issues like housing costs that pose very real challenges for Coloradans. There is a lot to be learned from communities that have considerable experience addressing this issue, and I believe that the state must do more to lend a hand.”

Between 2010 and 2016, the increase in households has outpaced the increase in new housing units by close to 60,000. As a result, housing costs — for both rent and purchase — have skyrocketed. Colorado’s median home price in November 2017 was $361,000. This was up 9.1 percent from 2016, and prices between November 2015 and 2016 rose 10 percent. On the rental side, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Colorado grew by 22.4 percent, between 2014 and 2017.
— Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne’s office

Lynne will make eight stops in four days to share her ideas and gather input to use in a white paper on the subject which she plans to release soon.

“Colorado has experienced tremendous population growth in the last 10 years, but our housing inventory has failed to keep pace, which has led to what are, for too many Coloradans, unsustainable increases in rent or home prices,” she sated.

Because space is limited, attendees are asked to RSVP at: https://actionnetwork.org/event_campaigns/keep-colorado-climbing-tour-affordable-housing

Here’s the schedule:

Friday

Denver
10:30 a.m.
Teatulia Tea Bar, 2900 Zuni St.

Boulder
2 p.m.
Boulder Creek Room,
Boulder Public Library, 1001 Arapahoe Ave.

Saturday

Pueblo
11:15 a.m.
Pueblo City-County Library District Central Library, 100 E. Abriendo Ave.

Cañon City
1:15 p.m.
Cañon City Public Library Central Library. 516 Macon Ave.

Sunday

Carbondale
2:45 p.m.
Bonfire Coffee, 433 Main St.

Grand Junction
5:45 pm
Colorado Mesa University, Room 221, 1100 North Ave.

Monday

Glenwood Springs
10:45 a.m.
Morgridge Commons, 815 Cooper Ave, 2nd floor

Steamboat
3:45 p.m.
522 Lincoln Ave, 3rd Floor



Adam McCoyAdam McCoyFebruary 7, 20182min919

As Denver developers construct those tall buildings redefining the city’s skyline, they’ll have to add affordable housing components. It’s part of a proposal being floated by Denver City Council President Albus Brooks to help address the city’s ongoing housing crisis.

Brooks’ proposal is called a “height incentive,” Denver7 reports:

Brooks is trying to strike the right balance, and he is using 38th and Blake as his case study for the ambitious idea, telling developers at the RiNo site that if they want to build higher, they’ll have to add affordable housing.

“It’s a good compromise of what we’re trying to see in the city of Denver,” said Brooks.

Under Brooks’ proposal, areas zoned for five stories could build up to 12 or even 16 stories, but only if developers add ten percent affordable housing and at their own cost.

The height incentive is another Denver approach to city residents being squeezed out of their neighborhoods due to a healthy economy, but surging rents and home prices.

However, at least one developer told Denver7 these incremental steps won’t effectively address the affordable housing crisis in the city. Instead, “serious political commitment” is needed.

Denver has launched other programs to help ease the cost of living in Denver, including working with developers who promise to build affordable housing and launching a dedicated affordable housing fund and offering eviction and rent assistance.

A public hearing to discuss the height incentive is scheduled for Feb. 12.


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Adam McCoyAdam McCoyJanuary 30, 20182min1020

Denver has been working hard to grow its affordable housing stock, but a new report claims up to 1,200 homes connected to the city’s housing program might have been overtaxed.

That’s according to FOX31. The Denver station says it investigated Green Valley Ranch resident Cynthia Lopez’s claim in October that the city wouldn’t permit her to sell her home for market value. Instead she would have to sell it for far less because of appreciation restrictions on affordable housing:

Lopez intended to sell her home in Green Valley Ranch for $265,000 but was told by city housing officials she couldn’t legally sell it for more than a $179,000 because the city only allows its affordable housing homes to appreciate 5 percent a year.

“I was baffled,” said Lopez, who had no idea her house was part of an affordable housing covenant when she bought it in 2012 for $150,000.

Lopez told the Denver station she paid market value when she purchased her home, and is paying taxes on a home assessed at market value, but isn’t allowed to sell it for market value. Lopez’s 2017 property tax records reflected that she in fact paying taxes based upon a property value of $241,000, FOX 31 said.

Denver Assessor Keith Erffmeyer told FOX31 he is aware of the issue and a team of staffers are reviewing property taxes assessed for every affordable housing unit in Denver.

Facing surging rent and home prices, the city has launched programs to help ease cost of living in Denver, including working with developers who promise to build affordable housing and launching a dedicated affordable housing fund and offering eviction and rent assistance.


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Joey BunchJoey BunchDecember 20, 20173min367

Well, you didn’t expect the Colorado Municipal League to ask for lasers and free ponies, did you? The venerable, powerful and dutiful representative of the state’s towns and cities has more practical requests for the legislative session that begins Jan. 10.

“The main themes for the session will be maintaining local control and home rule authority, funding previous unfunded mandates from the state and trying to protect municipal taxpayer dollars from being appropriated or spent by the General Assembly through decisions that should remain local,” that’s what the CML Executive Board voted on last Friday.

More specifically, the league will have its hands on bills related to affordable housing, the opioid epidemic, natural disaster preparedness and homelessness. Marijuana, alcohol sales and energy development also are on the CML’s radar, as well as changes to the Public Employees Retirement Association.

The CML writes about its wish list on its website.

“Predictably, there will be new attempts to expand the frontier of marijuana legalization in Colorado,” the CML reports. “Early drafts of legislation that would permit (with local opt-in and approval) licensed premises for onsite, non-smoking marijuana consumption include a number of items of concern to CML. Yet, as the CML Policy Committee and CML Executive Board discussed, municipalities have wide range of views on these issues. At the core, CML’s goal is to ensure absolute local control.

“There also will be more legislation on beer and liquor this session, as the shockwaves from the 2016 shift to allow grocery stores to have multiple licenses to sell beer, wine, and sprits continue to create impacts. Additionally, a provision from the 2016 bill taking effect in 2019 now has people’s full attention. It allows conveniences stores and grocery stores with regular fermented malt beverage licenses to sell full-strength beer without any additional process. CML is working on multiple fronts on these issues.”

On PERA, the Municipal league pledged to be involved in any reforms that come down the legislative pipeline.

“With the ability to be fully funded long before the State and School Divisions, the much better funded Local Government Division can handle a little lighter touch than may be proposed for the rest of the PERA Divisions,” the CML said.


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Jessica MachettaNovember 30, 201714min1398
A solid growth plan needs to be at the top of the agenda for Colorado’s elected officials, says gubernatorial candidate Cary Kennedy. Kennedy, a Democrat, today unveiled her growth plan, which takes a head-on approach to addresses affordable housing concerns. “I’ve watched Colorado’s population double since I was a kid,” Kennedy tells Colorado Politics. “And […]

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Kara MasonKara MasonSeptember 18, 20172min601

Two years ago Gov. John Hickenlooper stood alongside artists in Loveland and announced the state would be the first in the nation to help develop affordable housing for artists across Colorado. That vision made another milestone last week in Trinidad, which was the first community chosen for the Space to Create program.

Trinidad, an old coal town located in the far southeastern portion of the state, learned it’s receiving 9 percent housing tax credits from the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority to fund its Space to Create project, which includes both work space and affordable housing for low-income artists and their families.

“This is a moment for Trinidad. This project will rehabilitate an entire city block on Main Street and will provide 41 new housing spaces to our downtown,” said Tara Marshall, development service director for the City of Trinidad, in a statement. “This is an extraordinary win for our community.”

The Space to Create project is the first of its kind. Artists, or those in related industries, meeting particular income requirements are eligible for the housing, which also make it easy to be creative, as workspace is attached. Three Trinidad buildings more than a century old will be transformed into the combined living, working and community space.

Trinidad has also done its part in making the project possible. Last year the city council allocated $1.6 million for the space.

“City Council recognized the opportunity to form partnerships that brought public, private and nonprofit funding to Trinidad to invest in our community,” Trinidad Mayor Phil Rico said in a statement. “This is an important milestone and I look forward to seeing this major project continue our revitalization efforts in our downtown.”

While funding has been secured, the project is still in beginning stages. City officials say the next step is to complete architectural design.


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Tom RamstackTom RamstackSeptember 11, 201714min1130

Marielena Suarez worries about whether she can find another house to rent in the Denver area at an affordable
price.

She used to have her own apartment but the region’s rising rents forced her to move into a leased house with her
mother, her sister and her sister’s two children.

“Why don’t we help each other?” Marielena quoted her sister as saying. But even pulling together isn’t enough to save the family from being displaced.

The homeowner recently notified Suarez’s family he was selling the four-bedroom house where they live, and they could only marvel at the estimated half-million dollar price.

Although the pinch of rising housing prices is spread across Colorado, it often digs deeper for Latino residents, many
with predominantly blue collar wages that are falling further behind the cost of living.

About 38 percent of Denver area residents rent their housing, according to the online real estate information service Trulia. But among all ethnic groups, Latinos overwhelmingly had the highest percentage of renters, about 65
percent.

At their current location, Marielena and her family pay $2,400 monthly rent and $400 in utilities — mostly from the sisters’ wages as home health nurses. Marielena Suarez earns about $42,000 a year.

Four years ago, a comparable house in her south Denver neighborhood rented for $1,400 a month, she said.

“It’s crazy what’s going on nowadays,” the 33-year-old single mother said, in a complaint being echoed throughout Denver, the Colorado General Assembly and hearing rooms of Congress. “You get home and sometimes you can
spend time with your little one, but it’s rush, rush, rush.”

Her first appointments caring for senior citizens and disabled persons can start as early as 5 a.m. and sometimes stretch to 8 p.m. The sisters try to increase their income by working more hours and “trying to find coupons like crazy,” Suarez said.

Other rental houses of the same size and price the family found are far out in the suburbs. They say
their commute time into Denver could be as much as an hour.

“Things just don’t seem to get better,” Suarez said.

Latinos make up about one-third of Denver’s population and just over 21 percent of Colorado residents.

 

Escalating rents
For renters, the cost of living is an increasingly heavy toll.

The Consumer Price Index for the Denver-Boulder-Greeley metropolitan area rose 3.1 percent from the first half of 2016 to the first half of 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Housing had the greatest impact, jumping 5.3 percent year-to-year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

Meanwhile, blue collar wages remained close to flat.

“I would say most populations of color are being disproportionately impacted,” said Andrea Chiriboga-Flor, housing organizer for 9to5 Colorado, a nonprofit organization that advocates for women in the workplace. “Language barriers also pose a significant barrier when it comes to housing.”

Spanish speaking renters, for example, often struggle with lenghty, complicated leases written in English,
said Chiriboga-Flor.

“You are obviously more likely to not be fully aware when you are violating your lease, making it easier for you to be evicted,” she said.

9to5 produced a study recently on Colorado’s affordable housing crisis, citing neighborhood gentrification and stagnant wages.

Boulder was rated Colorado’s most expensive rental market in a survey last year by the National Multifamily Housing Council, with a two-bedroom apartment averaging $2,010 a month. Broomfield, Denver, Golden and Highlands Ranch reported rents only slightly lower than Boulder.

The most affordable two-bedroom apartments for urban areas came in just under $1,000 a month in Colorado Springs, Grand Junction, Greeley, Loveland and Pueblo.

More than 25 percent of Denver’s workforce earns $12 an hour or less, according to the Colorado Fiscal
Institute, a Denver-based think tank on economic issues. A fast food worker would need to work at least 61 hours a week to live in a single family residence in the Denver area.

The same worker would need 114 hours per week to support themselves and a child.

“We are seeing a serious lack of affordable housing statewide,” said Jacque Montgomery, spokesman
for Gov. John Hickenlooper.

“The state is working very hard to support the increase of affordable housing units by investing in development
partnerships. We are also enhancing the voucher programs to help folks with monthly payments. And then there is the new funding from last session that is being used to increase units.”

 

RTD-fueled spike
One of the driving forces behind Denver’s rising rents is the Regional Transportation District’s FasTracks project, the multi-billion, multi-routed light rail initiative to upgrade public transportation.

While widely-hailed for spurring development and for someday, hopefully, alleviating traffic congestion, the lines have led to displacement, affordable housing advocates say.

“Much of the land acquired for the buildout runs through low income communities and communities of color,” the 9to5 report states of the West Line, specifically, from downtown Denver to Golden.

“Most of the rail stations also have comprehensive plans that include high density housing developments
and amenities that drive up housing costs and cater to middle income residents new to the area, rather than the original communities.”

Within a year of the West Line opening, rental rates and property values shot up along the route. Developers started buying up old properties near rail stations to replace them with new restaurants, grocery stores, child care centers
and other services.

Some landlords neglected maintenance in anticipation of selling out or they raised rents to capitalize on greater demand near the stations, according to the 9to5 report.

“Community members described significant pressure to leave their neighborhood,” the 9to5 report said.

The new transit and real estate developments created more jobs but the wages for most of the workers who were hired stayed the same as before the fast-paced gentrification, according to the report.

Another area impacted by gentrification is the old U.S. 40 “motel strip” along Colfax Avenue in Aurora. The strip has provided housing for hundreds of Latino families for years. The buildout of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus just north of the strip has been one pressure point on the old time motels.

The Colfax Community Network, a nonprofit organization that supports displaced families, organized a fundraising campaign for residents of the King’s Inn Motor Hotel after the new owners sharply raised rents. The money is supposed to help the families pay their first month’s rent if they find new homes, but the donated funds were only a temporary fix for the displaced families and other residents.

Shelters and transitional housing are they only way to hold off homelessness for some of the families, according to advocates for the motel strip residents. Another way is to pack more people into a residence.

A divorce and limited income compelled Maria de Luna her to move in with her daughter, Elizabeth Kilburn, at a Denver apartment in the Park Hill neighborhood. The two women pooled their money to pay the $1,145 a month
rent. Maria works for a nonprofit organization while Elizabeth moves between different jobs as a Spanish interpreter.

Their Denver rent has been increasing steadily but their wages stay the same. If they had moved into their apartment a month earlier, their rent would have been $65 a month less.

“We were only left with $145 to buy groceries, to buy milk and my son’s diapers,” Kilburn said. Her
son is nine months old. Her husband is stationed in South Korea for his stint in the Army.

They thought about moving to a cheaper apartment in the suburbs but determined that the cost of commuting to work would gobble up any savings in rent.

 

Cities tackle the crisis
Government programs for helping renters vary from city to city in Colorado and elsewhere.

Denver has one of the nation’s most aggressive programs, which has included building 3,000 affordable housing units that were completed this summer. They consist of 2,865 apartments and 149 for-sale affordable homes.

Affordable housing is generally defined as being no greater than 30 percent of household income.

Denver is helping to fund another 1,500 affordable housing units in 16 developments across the city.

Erik Solivan, director of Denver’s Office of Housing and Opportunities Everywhere (HOPE), described
the city’s efforts as “pushing multiple levers to steer local housing markets to expand affordable housing.”

When Mayor Michael Hancock organized the Office of HOPE last year, he sought to integrate the city’s housing investments with job and health programs. Hancock also led creation of a revolving loan fund to promote housing options.

The fund helps to finance rent buy-down programs, eviction assistance and to support development of more affordable housing.

This year, Hancock is promoting a program to connect families with affordable housing options. The main federal programs on affordable housing are the the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and the Section 8 rental assistance
program. LIHTC gives real estate developers and investors billions of dollars in tax credits nationally to
build housing for low-income residents. Section 8 has the effect of subsidizing affordable housing.

Even so, Solivan said the federal government could help low and moderate income housing efforts by discontinuing the “practice of national housing policies that prohibit the flexibility needed by localities.”

Colorado Springs is developing a mapping tool to help real estate developers in their quest for the LIHTC tax credits and other funds. The tool identifies neighborhoods that could qualify for affordable housing assistance based on residents’ incomes, the age of housing stock, job concentrations and percentages of homeowners compared with renters.

“Developers will be able to use the mapping tool to support their applications for federal funding, which is often critical to providing cash flow for affordable housing projects,” said Jamie R. Fabos, a city of Colorado Springs communications officer.

The city plans to open 240 affordable housing units in the fall.

 

Food or rent
Any relief from rising rents could not come soon enough for Raymunda Carrion, who worries about the upcoming turn of weather as summer fades and fall brings a chill to her Denver home.

Winter means higher heating bills on a budget that already requires her and her husband, Francisco,
to pay over half their income for housing.

Their rent jumped from $600 a month for her two-bedroom, one bathroom duplex in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood to $1,070 a month in one year. Heat, electricity and telephone add almost $600 more.

“We have to limit what we eat,” says the mother of three children.

One of her children requires medicine and treatment for lupus, sometimes forcing her to choose between paying for housing or dialysis for her adult child.

She works as a cook during the day while her husband is employed as a meatpacker. They tried finding a less expensive apartment but soon discovered none were available.

Her landlord recently told her that when her lease expires next July, her rent will go to $1,145 a month, leaving her to wonder how she would pay.

“I don’t know,” she said. “That’s what I’m wondering, what I’m going to do.”