Denver Facing Unprecedented Homelessness Moves Forward With Affordable Family-Size Housing With 3 New Projects

Three new affordable housing projects – including a stack of family-sized units – are set to begin construction in Denver this fall as the city faces rising unemployment and a homeless crisis. shelter.

The three projects, which stretch from southwest Denver to the city’s far north, received initial loan approval from the city’s Department of Housing Stability at a council committee meeting municipal Wednesday. Denver plans to provide a total of $ 8.6 million in loans for the construction of the three apartments, a fraction of the total price of $ 93 million.

The plans are among 13 affordable housing projects the city has in the works, many of which are expected to begin construction this fall. The list of projects represents a turning point – instead of one-bedroom apartments and studios in the city center, these are mostly family units and very affordable.

“We know that the real critical need that is so difficult is for low income housing and family size,” said Nick Emenhiser, real estate development manager at the Denver Department of Housing Stability. “This is really where we refocused our attention. We really heard that the community needed it loud and clear.

One of the three new projects is the reconstruction of historic Pancratia Hall on the Loretto Heights campus in southwest Denver. The 1929 room was once a convent and later a university dormitory for women. If all goes as planned, the hall will open its doors with 72 apartments for low-income families in 2022.

A chapel inside the hall will become a four bedroom apartment. Plans also include preserving the basketball hoops from the old gymnasium and incorporating them into multi-bedroom apartment designs, said City Councilor Kevin Flynn, who was among the city leaders who voted to support loans, which have yet to be approved by the full board.

The Pancratia Hall project – part of a larger plan to install a theater and other housing on the Loretto Heights campus – is the city’s first affordable housing investment in the Flynn District, a- he declared. Even though Southwest Denver is one of Denver’s more affordable neighborhoods, he expects it won’t.

“Family units are very important to my district,” he said. “Families are really the key to our community. ”

Families living in the apartment complex would pay no more than 30% of their income in rent. The $ 25 million project includes the city’s $ 3.3 million investment, which is a low-interest loan with a long and flexible repayment period.

The developer also receives historic federal and state tax credits and a loan from the Colorado Division of Housing. Westside Investments is the developer of the entire Loretto Heights project, while Hartman Ely Investments and Proximity Green are the developers of Pancratia Hall.

The promoters of the three projects agreed on specific rent rates, in exchange for subsidies in the form of tax credits during the construction phase. There is no rental subsidy, or bond, required for residents. The arrangement is called a “supply-side subsidy”.

A drawing of an affordable housing project called Viña in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood of North Denver. The first phase of the apartment complex will consist of 150 units, including several with multiple bedrooms. (Denver City Council)

The second project is a 150-unit apartment building located at East 48th Avenue and Race Street in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood of North Denver. The city is investing $ 3.75 million for the $ 36 million development, now the site of an abandoned warehouse in the neighborhood where many residents have been displaced by the expansion of Interstate 70.

The hope is that residents forced to leave the neighborhood can return to live in the new building. The project, by Columbia Ventures, is expected to eventually include a few hundred apartments, many of which are family-sized, when all four phases are completed.

The building will have space on the ground floor for Clinica Tepeyac, a local non-profit medical clinic, as well as retail stores.

And the third project – called Capitol Square Apartments – is now the site of a vacant auto garage near Sherman Street and 12th Avenue East in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The $ 32 million development is envisioned as a home for middle-income professionals, including teachers, who want to live downtown and near the Capitol. It will have 103 low-income units, all with one or two bedrooms. The City’s contribution is a loan of $ 1.5 million.

“It’s a great place in the middle of where Capitol Hill and Civic Center come together,” said Emenhiser, calling it a great place for people who work downtown but can’t afford to. pay rent at market rates downtown.

As with all projects, the terms of the deal spell out exactly how much people can earn to qualify to live there. Capitol Square apartments, for example, will have seven units reserved for households earning no more than 30% of the average median income in Denver. The average median income for a household of four in Denver is around $ 100,000.

City Councilor Amanda Sawyer called the projects “fantastic and exciting” and an example of “city policies catching up with priorities.” For years, Denver has talked about creating more affordable housing for families.

Capitol Square Apartments is slated for completion in 2022 on a site near the Capitol which is now a vacant auto garage. The complex will consist of 103 units, aimed at middle-income workers, including teachers. (Denver City Council)

City leaders said the timeline for the final planning of the projects – amid a pandemic that has strained government budgets and closed businesses across the state – has made them more important.

“I don’t remember a package like this at a time in history when we need it,” said Councilor Stacie Gilmore. “It’s wonderful to see our policy match our values.

The city has 13 affordable housing projects in the planning stages, with municipal investments totaling $ 17.5 million. The projects would bring 1,021 affordable apartments to the city.

As Colorado heads into a recession, new construction will create hundreds of jobs and boost the local economy around new buildings, said Debra Bustos, deputy director of housing opportunities in the Housing Stability Office of the city. She called it a “mushroom effect”.

Several are expected to be completed in early mid-2022, she said.

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