Table of Contents
- 9News, 9News at Daybreak (5 AM), November 13, 2018
- 9News, 9News at Daybreak (6 AM), November 13, 2018
- Denver7, The emotional support animal debate rages on in Colorado, November 13, 2018
- The Denver Post, Opinion: Housing crisis will make it harder than ever to be home for the holidays, November 22, 2018
- Denverite, Blueprint Denver has designs on a better city, November 20, 2018
- Next City, Getting Everyone on Board with New Affordable Housing Standards in Denver, November 21, 2018
- Curbed, Why affordable housing is scarce in progressive cities, November 16, 2018
- The Denver Post, With $25 million from FirstBank, Denver’s Urban Land Conservancy has new tool in fight for affordability, November 16, 2018
- Colorado Real Estate Journal, A Q&A about the Denver multifamily market, November 23, 2018
- Denverite, Denver City Council District 1 election: Who’s running to represent northwest Denver, November 18, 2018
9News, 9News at Daybreak (5 AM), November 13, 2018
This 9News morning broadcast touched on Denver rent and mentioned the latest report from the Apartment Association of Metro Denver in their coverage.
9News, 9News at Daybreak (6 AM), November 13, 2018
This 9News morning broadcast touched on Denver rent and mentioned the latest report from the Apartment Association of Metro Denver in their coverage.
Denver7, The emotional support animal debate rages on in Colorado, November 13, 2018
By Jace Larson
Editor’s Note: Denver7 360 stories explore multiple sides of the topics that matter most to Coloradans, bringing in different perspectives so you can make up your own mind about the issues. To comment on this or other 360 stories, email us at 360@TheDenverChannel.com. See more 360 stories here.
Buckle up! It’s nearly Thanksgiving and for travelers that means packed parking lots, crowded carousels and lines — long, long lines.
More people are navigating the nuttiness of holiday travel with emotional support animals by their side. That trend has exploded with airlines seeing a big increase in passengers trying to bring them onboard.
Our viewers have told us about experiences where they were nearly attacked by aggressive dogs whose owners claimed they were emotional support animals.
People have tried to bring a full-grown peacock and an emotional support squirrel on flights.
Those with mental health challenges and disability advocates caution against painting everyone with a broad brush and encouraged us to take a 360 view and explore other viewpoints.
Shana Duffy has bipolar disorder and survived a sexual assault. Her mental-health physician suggested she get an emotional support dog and so she got Apollo.
“Ok I’ll be blunt, there was one night I was thinking about killing myself, and the thought popped into my head, ‘Who is going to take care of Apollo?’ And that was enough for me to stop thinking about it,” Duffy said.
Apollo has given her back her sense of security and sanity and is a legally-certified emotional support animal. But she’s had people give her the side eye once or twice.
“I have no fear in telling people, “Hey I was inpatient in a psych facility, and a doctor told me to get a dog. So when you get your medical degree, we can have this conversation again,” she said.
EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS VS SERVICE DOGS.
ADA service dogs are specially trained to perform a task — a seeing-eye dog is an example. They get to go almost anywhere its owners go.
The rules are different for emotional support animals. They help someone with mental distress and can be any animal. Owners get to travel and live with them for free after a doctor or therapist says they need one. Some people just lie and know they won’t always be asked for proof.
And that’s a problem for the person with our next point of view.
“What’s really happening is we’ve got a lot of folks who for one reason or another try to avoid the pet fee,” said Sharon Pinkerton, a vice president with Airlines For America.
Airlines have seen 50%-75% more people bringing on emotional support animals. She says it’s time to tighten the leash and the regulations, to stop airports from looking like a zoo.
“We’re not allowed to say no unless that animal is so big it creates some type of safety issue,” Pinkerton said.
Delta Airlines policy: https://www.delta.com/us/en/accessible-travel-services/service-animals
United Airlines policy: https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/travel/specialneeds/disabilities/assistance_animals.aspx
Southwest Airlines policy: https://www.southwest.com/assets/pdfs/customer_service/emotional_animal_travel_instructions.pdf
Frontier Airlines policy: https://www.flyfrontier.com/travel/travel-info/special-services/
American Airlines policy: https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/special-assistance/service-animals.jsp
THE DENVER-AREA LANDLORD
Teo Nicolais is a local landlord and a member of the Apartment Association of Metro Denver.
“When it comes to mental health, I am all for anything which will help someone overcome those problems,” Nicolais said.
It’s his view that people should be in the doghouse for gaming the system.
“It’s very common for people to come and present what is, in fact, a pet as an emotional support animal. I think it’s a huge disservice to those who actually need it,” he said.
Faking an emotional support dog is like parking in a handicapped spot without the placard, he says. Why not have a registration system to track those who really need it?
“What we certainly would like to see is more verification, more documentation, so that we make sure we are offering the people who need the help, the help they need, while not allowing a free pass for everyone who wants to pretend they have the same need,” he said.
THE ONLINE TEST
We logged online and got an emotional support certificate for my dog Rocky.
I answered honestly a few questions about having trouble sleeping and feeling stressed.
I never talked to anyone on the phone or visited a medical professional, yet I received an emotional support dog certificate.
Before you go making up your mind, hear another point of view from disability advocate Emily Harvey with Disability Colorado.
“We don’t believe the laws need to be stricter regarding service animals and emotional support animals,” she said.
She doesn’t want life to be made tougher for those with disabilities and worries about some new airline policies that require passengers to get a doctor’s and a veterinarian’s note 48-hours before flying with an emotional support animal.
“That seems fine until you meet someone who has a family emergency. Now they can’t fly for two days because they have this restriction that they have to give the airline a certain amount of notice,” she worries.
What do you think? Will regulations hurt the disabled? Has this gone too far or are we unfairly judging those battling mental health challenges?
The Denver Post, Opinion: Housing crisis will make it harder than ever to be home for the holidays, November 22, 2018
By Michael Bennet
Today, many of us will give thanks for the blessing of a safe and stable home. As we do, thousands of Coloradans will pass the night in a homeless shelter. Others will mark the holiday in a motel room, on a friend’s couch, or parked in a trailer on land they do not own. They are all faces of a national housing crisis that persists even in a robust economy.
A stable and affordable home is fundamental to economic security. But for too many Americans, housing has become a source of anxiety. Since 1970, the cost of housing has increased 70 percent while family incomes have barely moved. The result is that nearly half of tenants spend over 30 percent of their incomes on rent. Millions of Americans now find themselves working but struggling to save, living each month one setback or emergency from disaster.
This month, I met with Coloradans who had been pushed to the edge — crane operators, nurses, and truck drivers. Several had college and even advanced degrees. Some described how an obscure lease violation or a landlord’s sudden decision to redevelop the property forced them from their homes. Others described how an illness, family emergency, or accident led to one late payment; a late payment led to an eviction; an eviction led to a lost job; and within months, they plunged into a cruel cycle of poverty.
This eviction crisis places an enormous cost on society: in the emergency room visits from those in fragile living conditions; in the joblessness and depression that follow removal from a home; and in the upheaval of young children forced to move from school to school.
This is yet another example of where bipartisan action could make a difference, but our dysfunctional politics in Washington stand in the way. If we could get our act together, there are simple but important steps we could take to address this crisis.
First, we need to understand the problem. Today, state and local governments employ disparate systems to report evictions. In some cases, they don’t report them at all. This bureaucratic mess obscures the scope of the problem. We need sound data and analysis. Building on initiatives like Matthew Desmond’s Eviction Lab, we should create a national database of eviction data to identify trends and target resources. We should also study the key causes and consequences of eviction to inform future policy.
Second, we need to reduce preventable evictions. In Colorado, just two percent of renters have legal representation compared to 90 percent of landlords. That imbalance, which is consistent with national trends, drives evictions that could be avoided through mediation, counseling, or other support. We should increase resources for legal services, expand opportunities for law students to represent vulnerable tenants, and help states launch programs that encourage mediation and help tenants get back on track. We should also support local emergency funds that help tenants weather bumps in the road and stay in their homes.
Third, in cases where eviction is unavoidable, we can do a lot more to limit the damage. Eviction often leads to a disruption in critical services like Medicaid and nutrition assistance when families need them most. We should provide local governments the tools to prevent this disruption and help evicted families find a home to avoid long-term hardship. By expanding access to legal services, we can also make it easier for tenants to negotiate more time and keep the black mark of eviction off their record.
Beyond these initial steps, we have considerable work ahead. So as we reflect this Thanksgiving, let’s rededicate ourselves to building a future in which every American family can gather over the holidays without worrying where their children will sleep the next night.
Michael Bennet is U.S. senator for Colorado.
Denverite, Blueprint Denver has designs on a better city, November 20, 2018
By Donna Bryson
I’m pretty sure Denver’s planners meant no irony when they chose a quote from IM Pei to open Blueprint Denver’s chapter on design:
“Architecture is the very mirror of life. You only have to cast your eyes on buildings to feel the presence of the past, the spirit of a place; they are the reflection of society.”
Pei’s glass-walled hyperbolic paraboloid at Zeckendorf Plaza was demolished to make way for a 16th Street Mall hotel. That loss during a ’90s spate of urban renewal might not be the first thing everyone thinks of when they think of Pei. But it does seem everyone in Denver these days is thinking about design — what to preserve of the past, what to encourage for the future and how best to go about reaching goals that can sometimes seem contradictory.
A dozen pages in Blueprint Denver, essentially staff policy proposals on which City Council will rule, suggest approaches to ensuring our city’s architecture does reflect our society and our aspirations.
During community meetings that helped inform the Blueprint, planners heard that residents want streetscapes they can celebrate and neighborhoods where they can feel at home — and in which they can afford to live.
“We heard that design, design value is important,” said David Gaspers, the city planner who is managing the Blueprint.
Blueprint recommendations on design include imposing stricter zoning code language on, for example, the height of houses and how much of the lot those houses can occupy; creating more design review boards to keep a close eye on developers; and offering residents training and tools to help them do some of that oversight themselves. The code could also be tightened to spell out building materials in some cases.
“We want to make sure … the materials are of good quality, durable and long-lasting,” Gaspers said.
“One thing we heard from the community is that, ‘the zoning code allowed for these big boxes to go up in my neighborhood and it doesn’t seem appropriate.’”
Certainly the zoners didn’t intend that when the city’s code was overhauled in 2010. The changes then moved away from strictly separating neighborhoods according to the kinds of things people did there – live, work, shop. Instead, the new system offers a menu of building forms and lot layouts meant to promote flexibility. Then came population growth accompanied by a building boom, with developers exploiting the code’s elasticity to squeeze as much living and sellable space as possible onto a given lot. The result? Those hated slot homes and behemoths sitting close to – oh, so close to – traditional bungalows.
The 2010 code makers probably thought, “Well, no one’s going to build that,’” Gaspers said.
Dick Farley, an architect, urban designer and former head of urban design in the city’s Community Planning and Development Office, said unintended consequences are hard to avoid. Denver’s bullish economy didn’t help.
“The market is a blind giant,” he said. A “neighborhood could influence the blind giant through voluntary design guidelines, peer pressure.”
The Blueprint suggests strategies.
Pattern books, for example, could be developed neighborhood by neighborhood to ensure residents and builders are talking about the same thing when they review design and construction options.
The Blueprint also proposes methods of persuasion that have a bit more heft than peer pressure. Area-specific conservation or design overlays could be added to the zoning code to require features people want to emphasize, such as front porches or front yards. Developers would have to adhere to the overlay but would have flexibility in how the features are expressed — one architect’s hero might be the modernist Pei, another’s the traditionalist George Herbard Williamson, designer of Denver’s iconic East High School. Design is about problem-solving, not taste, a matter that no one should expect or want codes, overlays or pattern books to address
Park Hill residents might decree that new homes have brick facades. Builders could meet that requirement with brick facing instead of expensive masonry. Other neighborhoods might create rules that make it simpler to undertake renovations or build accessory dwelling units and that limit scrape-and-builds, which could make it easier for residents to stay in their homes in areas where gentrification is feared.
The goal should be to manage an evolving city, Farley said.
“How do you deal with the inevitable change and still keep aspects of character?” he said. “It’s not trying to freeze it in amber. But it’s trying to guide new development so that it reflects some of the character.”
A city staffer would compare builders’ proposals to the overlays to determine what could be constructed in a given neighborhood. That would be less complicated, time-consuming and expensive than another option raised in the Blueprint: expanding design review to yet-to-be-determined neighborhoods, though likely for only larger projects.
The city already has a few design review boards for neighborhoods such as LoDo made up of professionals and community members who scrutinize builders’ proposals. Creating more would require more city staffers to support the boards – setting agendas, conducting research, scheduling hearings.
“If we’re going to be able to respond (to community concerns) I think we need to allocate the right resources to do it,” said planner Gaspers, adding it was not clear how many staffers would have to be added.
Developers aren’t likely to embrace the prospect of more review by committee.
Design review can be cumbersome.
“We have a hard enough time permitting now,” said Will Kralovec, an affordable housing developer with a background in city planning.
He acknowledges that “developers and architects have to be held to higher standards.” But that also goes hand-in-hand with the city having to work with developers and architects to create good design.”
Kralovec isn’t necessarily opposed to more design review, though he hopes it will be efficiently managed. He also suggested financial support, perhaps in the form of subsidies, for developers trying to do the right thing.
“If we want certain things like affordable housing, good design, walkable streets, we will need to pay for it as a society,” he said.
In a city where even middle-income earners struggle to rent or buy homes and in a country with a widening gap between haves and have-nots, some might question whether a discussion about design is relevant. But it’s also a discussion about who gets to shape Denver’s future.
Everyone should be part of the discussion.
Tim Reinen is executive director of Radian, a nonprofit architecture and design firm that has helped develop tiny homes for people experiencing homelessness and trained fifth graders in Swansea to design their own park. Along the way, Radian has worked to bring people who are not used to being consulted at the decision-making table. Reinen said the city is getting better at that, citing a new neighborhood planning initiative that over the next decade will try to ensure that all of Denver has a small area plan.
Only about a fifth of the city had such plans as of 2016 under the 2002 version of Blueprint Denver, while 40 percent had outdated documents and the rest had no such roadmap. The new initiative calls for tackling plans in small groups. Reinen was looking for the city to be creative in ensuring the groups were representative.
“I just want to drive home the importance of how community is involved in making these decisions,” he said. “It’s not just a meeting from 6 to 8 that has certain food associated with that community.”
“Architecture and the idea of place-making should be representative of the culture of a neighborhood,” Reinen said.
“There is definitely a lot of development in the city where there was no community input,” he said. But “development can be equitable. Development can be inclusive when the community is heard.”
Gaspers, the Blueprint planner, said “citizens academies” might be needed to train community members to use tools like pattern books or contribute effectively on design review boards.
Good design can alleviate stress.
Gaspers said design can address concerns about issues such as crowding and traffic by showing that density can be managed and beneficial, putting more amenities within easy reach of all.
The goal of the whole Blueprint, of which the design section is just a part,” Gaspers said, “is an equitable, livable city by 2040.”
CORRECTION: Corrects a previous version that misspelled the last name of the city planner who is managing the Blueprint. He is David Gaspers.
Next City, Getting Everyone on Board with New Affordable Housing Standards in Denver, November 21, 2018
By Emily Nonko
The Northeast Denver Housing Center has managed affordable housing in the city since the organization was founded in 1982. Back then, the nonprofit financed projects with a 20-year agreement to keep rents affordable for families earning 30 to 60 percent of the area median income.
Much has changed in Denver since 1982 — one of the most striking changes being its affordable housing landscape. “What we did not realize back then,” says Getabecha Mekonnen, executive director of Northeast Denver Housing Center, “Is that 10, 20 years down the line, the income of our clients and the income we produced by the units would get outstripped by the cost of managing or repairing the units.”
In the face of rapidly rising property values and stagnant wages, Denver has found itself in a housing crisis like most U.S. cities. This summer, Mayor Michael Hancock doubled the city’s dedicated affordable housing fund to address the growing need.
Denver’s City Council recently took another step to address the preservation of the city’s existing stock. With a 20-year affordability lifespan, the city was at risk of losing about 1,700 income-restricted rentals over the next five years — that’s 8.5 percent of the city’s stock of about 20,000 affordable units. On Oct. 22, the City Council unanimously approved a bill to extend the minimum affordability period for new rental projects receiving city subsidies from 20 years to 60 years.
The decision left both nonprofit housing providers and for-profit affordable housing developers concerned while acknowledging that preservation will be crucial to the city’s affordable housing plan moving forward.
“It’s not that we disagree with the need to preserve affordable housing,” says Mekonnen. “But we are emphasizing that the city needs to put the appropriate tool sets in place. What are the favorable interest rates, terms, underwriting policies, that the city can put in place to make sustainability possible?”
The 60-year ordinance is one result of community outreach by the city in crafting its five-year housing plan.
“It was identified, loud and clear from the community, that preservation of currently-restricted housing was a real priority,” says Doug Selbee, housing development manager for the Denver Office of Economic Development. “We compared ourselves to other high-cost cities across the United States, and found they were restricting units longer.”
But other cities, nonprofit housing leaders point out, have a more developed framework, and dedicated funding, to assist housing providers in the preservation of affordable housing.
On a per-unit investment of affordable housing, Denver lags behind Austin, Seattle, Portland, Boston and Washington, DC. “Seattle, for instance, has 50 years of affordability, but they fund the units over $80,000 a unit,” says Jonathan Cappelli, a representative for NDC, a collaborative of Denver nonprofit housing providers. “Denver is a median of $18,000 per unit.”
“It doesn’t mean Denver needs to pay for the cost of the entire unit,” says Cappelli. “It’s a mixture of funding per unit on the front end, reserves, and downstream preservation policies that allow developers to sustainably keep these properties affordable for the long term.”
In response to these concerns, City Council amended the bill to delay its implementation until February of 2019, giving the city, affordable housing developers, housing advocates and others more time to help formulate the rules and regulations for the new law.
“We’ve maintained that [the city has] done funding for rehab of affordable projects,” says Selbee. “Right now we’re setting up a series of meetings with the development and finance community to figure out how that rehab funding can come into play for their projects as they get older, and systems need to be replaced.”
Extra city funding is necessary, housing advocates say, in addition to flexible financing when housing projects need to be refinanced.
Some believe the ordinance poses an opportune time to further ramp up Denver’s funding stream for affordable housing. Andrew Romero, a board member of All In Denver, a new nonprofit pushing for progressive policies, pointed to a $258 million housing bond voters approved last year in Portland, which allocates resources for preservation.
“I’m not sure if the mayor and council want to go down the route of the housing bond,” Romero says. “But we’ve conducted polls [of Denverites] that show at least 67 percent support for a housing bond.”
“I believe — and I think, completely approvable by voters — that we need an additional stream of funds for preservation,” says David Zucker, co-founder of Zocalo Community Development, a for-profit affordable housing firm. Both he and Romero believe the city’s recent commitment from $15 million to about $30 million a year for housing isn’t enough.
“We need a durable source of $30 to $40 million annually that’s used for preservation and a higher per-unit subsidy,” Zucker says.
“When the city engages its nonprofit and for-profit partners, the outcomes will be so much more durable,” he says, in regards to delaying the implementation of the 60-year ordinance till February. “It was important [for the city] to tap the breaks … but it would have been more important to make sure everyone was in the car to start with.”
Curbed, Why affordable housing is scarce in progressive cities, November 16, 2018
By Patrick Sisson
Plenty of factors can explain the crisis of housing affordability plaguing U.S. cities—a shortage of new construction, a lack of tenant protection, greedy developers and speculators, or a lack of upzoning. But according to San Francisco-based housing activist Randy Shaw, author of Generation Priced Out: WhoGets to Live in the New Urban America, one of the true challenges is the entrenched power and privilege of an older generation of homeowners.
“No progressive city posts “Priced Out: Only the Affluent Allowed” signs in it neighborhoods,” he writes in the book’s introduction. “But that’s what’s happened.”
Shaw, who runs the Tenderloin Housing Clinic in San Francisco, has a first-hand understanding of the causes of today’s crisis, having witnessed his city’s transformation over the last few decades into a poster child for extreme housing costs. He also knows many of the traditional solutions, having pushed for the tenant protections that make San Francisco a progressive beacon for renter’s rights.
But as he bounces from city to city in the book, showing how similar problems have manifested themselves in Austin, Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver, and elsewhere, it’s clear there’s a generational battle being fought. The entrenched power of homeowners to restrict the housing supply, even as the nation sees more expensive housing and increased wealth segregation across the country, shocked even a seasoned San Francisco activist.
“I sometimes feel akin to an emergency room physician as the victims of rising unaffordability and civil strife come to our office seeking help,” Shaw wrote, describing his experience in how home city. What shocked him, as someone who witnessed how that shift can change a city, is how widespread it has become.
A challenge so-called progressive cities aren’t meeting
Shaw says the housing crisis has taken on a different tone over the last few years because its impact is so widespread. What’s changed in many cities is how the middle class is being affected; now, low-income households and young adults aren’t the only ones facing long commutes or makeshift living situations due to a dearth of accessible and affordable options near jobs.
“If you’d spoken to me in 2011 and asked how Seattle is doing, I may have said it seems pretty affordable,” Shaw told Curbed. “Now, cities like Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, and Austin all face similar problems as San Francisco. The nation perceived this as a problem that was only in certain cities, and now it’s spread.”
As soon as the housing market began recovering in earnest after the Great Recession, and prices really started rising in 2011 and 2012, says Shaw, cities that had restricted growth or favored single-family homes faced a reckoning. Generation Priced Out does a great job of telling the personal stories of families and tenants who can barely hang on; what’s even more damning is imaging all the other stories of those who missed opportunity because they couldn’t afford to move to big cities.
The fealty to policies that have restricted supply and raise prices challenge the self-image of many deep blue, Democratic cities; how can you be progressive and welcoming to all if low income, people of color, students, and the middle class can’t afford a place to live?
“So many cities are seeing long-standing pro-ownership policies come face to face with growth,” he says. “It’s challenging their progressive cred. If you drive a Prius and recycle, yet don’t allow apartments to be built, and then force people to drive 50 miles each way to work and cause all that pollution, you can’t say ‘out of sight, out of mind.’”
Los Angeles as a cautionary tale
Shaw works in San Francisco, but he grew up in the Westside of Los Angeles, so his descriptions of how many sections of that city went from working class to unaffordable offer some additional personal and historical perspective.
Like San Francisco, the city’s downtown development boom, economic growth, and increased population all occurred without the city building much housing. During the recent boom, working-class neighborhoods like Boyle Heights and Highland Park were targeted by speculators, and working class renters, who lacked tenant and housing protections, found themselves pushed out.
Like many other cities profiled in the book, generations of bad policy caught up during the last decade’s downtown building boom. Between 1980 to 2010, Los Angeles’s population growth exceeded housing growth by 42 percent. When demand and prices suddenly shifted, a city ripe for affordability issues faced disaster.
What Shaw found most eye-opening during writing and research was the widespread, entrenched power of homeowner groups. Between neighborhood groups and councils that held power over zoning and land-use decisions and the spread of NIMBYism, these older groups have often controlled the dialogue around adding housing supply, all while reaping an oversized amount of the gains from rising land values. As author Mike Davis once wrote, this “Sunset Bolshevism,” the collective political power of homeowners, has proven itself to be California’s strongest social movement.
“The most surprising thing was how widespread these homeowner groups was,” Shaw says. “The most powerful voters are homeowner voters.
Shaw highlighted Venice, the once-Bohemian beach community in Los Angeles, as a prime example. From 1960 to 2010, as the LA metro area added two million housing units, Venice added virtually none. Venice actually lost 700 housing units between 2000 and 2015, and the population decreased. It’s created incredible homeowner value, as well as an acute affordability and homelessness crisis.
Cities can change the narrative
While so many cities lament a steady shift toward a San Francisco-style housing situation, Shaw says he’s seeing hope, especially at a local level. Cities such as Seattle and Denver, while far from solving the issue, have shown the benefits of pro-growth policies. Portland, San Francisco, and Austin have also passed housing bonds.
There have been flickers of hope at the national level lately. Senators including Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Elizabeth Warren have all issued housing policy platforms. Shaw agrees that housing has been a larger national issue than its been in decades. But the solution, he says, can be found at the local level today.
“There’s been a wakeup call around America,” he says. “This book is based on the idea that cities can make a change and make this work.”
The Denver Post, With $25 million from FirstBank, Denver’s Urban Land Conservancy has new tool in fight for affordability, November 16, 2018
By Joe Rubino
A local nonprofit is touting a new tool that’s been developed to carve out room for affordable housing and affordable commercial space in the ever more costly Denver area.
And it’s got big financial support from a local bank, foundations and a quasi-governmental organization behind it.
Urban Land Conservancy this week announced the launch of the Metro Denver Impact Facility, which is akin to, but legally distinct from, a loan fund. Started with $25 million from FirstBank, the lending program was established specifically to provide low-interest financing for property acquisitions. As sole borrower, Urban Land Conservancy plans to use five-year loans from the program to buy real estate that will be dedicated to providing affordable opportunities for people, organizations and businesses at risk of being priced out of the metro area.
“The Denver region is no longer an equitable place to live and work,” ULC executive director Aaron Miripol said in a statement. “Our goal with this new resource is to stimulate additional local, low-cost investment to support more permanently affordable housing and nonprofit facility spaces, thereby creating opportunities for all residents to live, work and play in the communities of their choice.”
Some funding from the program has already been put to use.
Urban Land Conservancy recently closed on the $3.7 million purchase of the building at 363 S. Harlan St. in Lakewood. The 29,000-square-foot office space is the corporate headquarters for Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains and home to a dental practice and a law firm focused on civil rights and education, according to ULC.
The Colorado Health Foundation, Denver Foundation and the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority are junior lenders on the Harlan Street purchase and in the larger impact facility program.
“To ensure people have what they need to be healthy, they need affordable and available space to live and work,” Colorado Health Foundation president and CEO Karen McNeil-Miller said in a statement. Her organization has contributed $2 million to the new program. “This is a health-equity issue.”
Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains is familiar with Urban Land Conservancy. The Christian-inspired charity’s refugee and asylum services and immigrant legal services arms are based in an office building at 1600 Downing St. that ULC bought for $3.7 million in 2014. Since then, ULC has invested more than $2 million in facility upgrades including fixing up the parking lot and installing a new elevator.
“They have been really accommodating to us and like what we do,” Jim Barclay, Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains president and CEO, said Thursday from the Harlan Street office. “It’s been a very favorable relationship and I expect it to be that way here, too.”
Urban Land Conservancy spokeswoman Christi Smith said two other acquisitions made possible by the new funding will be announced in coming weeks; one in Commerce City and another in Denver.
ULC expects the Metro Denver Impact Facility to grow into a $50 million resource by 2020. The organisation is so far the only borrower FirstBank has underwritten to draw loan from the program but there is hope that other organizations will be able to take advantage with the support of junior lending partners in the future.
“FirstBank believes in doing what’s right for our communities and our customers,” Amber Hills, the bank’s president for the Lakewood market said in a statement. “This is one of many reasons why we’re thrilled to launch the Metro Denver Impact Facility, and ensure residents, nonprofits and schools have access to affordable housing/facilities and no longer run the risk of being displaced.”
Colorado Real Estate Journal, A Q&A about the Denver multifamily market, November 23, 2018
By Craig Ratterman
In October, Newmark Knight Frank Multifamily Vice Chairman Shane Ozment emceed and presented at Colorado Real Estate Journal’s 2018 Fall Multifamily Conference. Ozment, specializing in the marketing and sale of institutional multifamily properties in the metro Denver market, has facilitated over $6 billion in transactions since joining Newmark Knight Frank Multifamily in 2002. I asked Ozment to share some insight and a recap of what he had to say at the conference last month.
What major trend are you seeing in the Denver multifamily market?
Ozment: Rising construction costs are beginning to have a significant impact on new multifamily development. Labor shortages and material cost increases have led to a 10 percent escalation in hard construction costs year over year. Compounding the rising cost of development is the lack of core Denver sites still available. Earlier in the cycle, developers were able to build wrap-style and podium-style properties in core locations. Now, those sites are all spoken for and the remaining core Denver sites are smaller and demand more efficient types of high-rise or light-gauge steel construction. High-rise buildings are considerably more expensive to build than wood-framed, wrap or podium structures. All in, the cost to develop a multifamily asset in a core Denver location is over $400,000 per unit. Core locations were being developed in Denver for half of that per-unit cost just five years ago.
How has the national investment community’s opinion of Denver changed over the last decade?
Ozment: Ten years ago, many institutional investors across the country looked at Denver as a flyover city. That is not the case anymore. With the explosion of millennial in-migration and economic opportunities, investors now consider Denver to be a “Tier 1” city, with the likes of Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago. The surge in multifamily property values reflects this mindset change. In 2010, the average sale price of an apartment unit was $73,000; in 2017, the sale price was $216,000.
What submarket shows the best fundamentals moving forward?
Ozment: I have always been partial to Jefferson County and the western suburbs. The mountains are Colorado’s ocean and “beachfront” real estate will always be in demand. The western suburbs also have high barriers to entry compared to many parts of Denver. Jefferson County and the municipalities it contains have historically been averse to rapid growth in housing stock. The comparatively small supply pipeline on the west side of town creates a competitive advantage for existing properties and new developments that are able to navigate the approval process.
Interest rates have been rising steadily since September 2017. Have you seen this rise in rates translate to an increase in capitalization rates?
Ozment: So far, we have not seen an elevation in cap rates despite the rise in interest rates. I would attribute this to a surplus of capital chasing fewer deals on the market. Buyers are still very bullish on Denver and highly competitive bidding has kept cap rates suppressed. However, if rates continue to climb, it is inevitable that we will see cap rates increase as well – we are getting very close to that tipping point and could see cap rates start to creep up next year.
Denver has seen an uptick in large-scale condo developments over the past year or two. Do you think this will have an impact on the multifamily market?
Ozment: There has been a real lack of condo supply in the market for some time now. A steady flow of for-sale condo product is necessary for a healthy housing market, so it is great to see some new inventory in the pipeline. That said, the condo supply pipeline is still only a fraction of what it needs to be to fulfill the market’s demand. The majority of new condos in Denver are priced so high that they really aren’t attainable for most first-time home buyers. Overall, I don’t see the current condo supply pipeline having a meaningful impact on the Denver rental market.
What worries you about the Denver multifamily market?
Ozment: Affordability is a bit of a concern, although Denverites still pay a smaller percentage of their take-home pay on rent than people who live in most coastal markets. Average rents in Denver have increased 61 percent since 2011. While this has been great for real estate owners, it has put pressure on renters across the metro area. Fortunately, I think we are seeing some positive occurrences that could alleviate this pressure. Supply of new apartment units is helping to balance out the overwhelming demand the market has garnered over the last several years. Additionally, wage growth has outpaced rent growth in Denver over the past 12 months as we are finally seeing sustained low unemployment translate to increased pay.
What excites you about the Denver multifamily market?
Ozment: One of the most exciting aspects of the Denver apartment market is the quality of the newly constructed assets. Denver renters have great options to choose from, both in terms of interior finishes and amenities. Clean, modern design using high-quality materials – like quartz countertops and plank flooring – have become standard. The finishes in new apartment communities are nicer than the finishes in most for-sale homes. Swimming pools and fitness centers at apartment communities look like those at resort hotels or a high-end fitness club. I have been blown away by the quality and thoughtfulness that goes into the projects around town. These fantastic housing options that cater to the needs of our city’s growing population have allowed Denver to become the burgeoning city that it is today.
Denverite, Denver City Council District 1 election: Who’s running to represent northwest Denver, November 18, 2018
By David Sachs
The municipal election is coming.
We’ve got you covered on who’s joined the race for Denver’s mayor so far and the issues city voters might see on the ballot in May’s municipal election. But more than 40 people have registered to run for 13 city council seats as this is being published, and you’ll want to familiarize yourself with them, too.
So we’ll start at the beginning — District 1, which covers the northwest corner of Denver. City Councilman Rafael Espinoza holds the seat. So far, four people are challenging him.
Victoria Aguilar says she’s never not lived in District 1, so it’s fair to say she knows the turf pretty well. The Regis resident is a Denver Human Services employee specializes in immigrant and refugee services and chairs Denver’s Immigrant and Refugee Commission.
Aguilar was raised with a mentality of community service, she says — her parents founded Iglesia Cristiana Maranta, a faith-based nonprofit that helps people get job training, food vouchers and emergency housing.
The 34-year-old has a unique view from the front lines of the city’s human services department.
“My work has led me to identify gaps in city services,” Aguilar said. “I feel like running for office is really going to let me address these gaps.” Denverites get held back with employment and education when they cannot access behavioral and mental health services, she says. That’s a gap she wants to close with “systematic and intentional approaches” to connect the public health, mental health and urban planning sectors.
Like every other candidate in this race, Aguilar says she will focus on creating and preserving housing for the middle class and lower income residents. If elected, she would try to bake affordable housing requirements into new development and create an incentive fund to help longtime homeowners stay put, whether they need a little help fixing a roof or paying rising property taxes.
Aguilar said she would work to expand accessory dwelling units, also known as granny flats — little homes built on the property of bigger homes. Owners can rent them to supplement their income and stay put if they’re in danger of getting priced out. Meanwhile, ADUs add affordable rental options to the housing stock. She said it’s “unrealistic” to say new buildings aren’t going to rise on the north side, so she might as well find solutions.
“I feel like this district at this time we need someone who can work and get along with and everyone,” Aguilar said. “The city needs to put aside any political loyalty and really just focus on the people… to get things done.”
The candidate said she would focus on creating a more inclusive physical environment in District 1 — simple things that enhance the public space, like benches and gardens that enhance social interaction.
City Councilman Rafael Espinoza
The incumbent Rafael Espinoza fashions himself as a watchdog of the Hancock administration, which he tries to push in the direction of his priorities whenever possible. The councilman who describes himself as “honest to a fault” has held the District 1 seat since 2015.
Espinoza will rely on his record, he said, to make his case for reelection. He’s claiming wins on affordable housing, changes to building design rules, banning bump stocks and laying the groundwork for responsible development of the neighborhood-to-be known as River Mile in the Central Platte Valley.
The councilman said in an interview that the city’s affordable housing fund would not have reached $30 million without his push to find more and new funding streams. But he’s still not satisfied. Espinoza wants developers to contribute more money through required “linkage” fees, instead of property taxes and marijuana taxes.
“Our linkage fees have always been pathetically low,” Espinoza said.
Banning slot homes, which some people think are ugly and detract from the visual appeal of streets, is another victory claimed by the 46-year-old Jefferson Park resident. He’s also proud of guiding standards for the River Mile proposal — a massive new neighborhood being planned near Elitch Gardens that he says will have “the deepest affordability requirement and ask” of developers, plus super walkable and bikable streets.
“I’m really focused on the work that I’m doing so I don’t want to take too much time from that work when I’m this far out from the election,” Espinoza said. “I am thoroughly enjoying the outcomes that I am getting.”
Also of note: Espinoza has tried to sue the Hancock administration over the City Park Golf Course flood mitigation project tied to the I-70 widening and called for the mayor’s office to launch an investigation into sexual texts Mayor Michael Hancock sent to a subordinate.
“I will continue to hold this administration and other administration accountable,” Espinoza said.
“The voice for the Latino population” is how Raven Porteous frames her run for city council. The 27-year-old works as a restorative justice coordinator at North High School, where she works with students to help improve educational outcomes. She’s also a graduate student at the University of Colorado Denver, where she studies administrative leadership and policy.
“I decided to run because I feel like the Latino voice on the Northside is getting snuffed out,” Porteous said. “Working with Northside families, I’m seeing them complain about gentrification. I feel like right now they’re not being heard and they need to have more avenues for that.”
Porteous wants a more equitable path to home ownership, though she’s still developing the specifics of her housing platform, she said. Same with curbing homelessness does support the “right to rest” — the ability for people experiencing homeless to shelter themselves and sleep in public.
“Public areas should be used to help the homeless but I’m against all the trash and if the crime rates go up,” Porteous said. “There definitely needs to be a team effort to figure out how they’re landing in that situation. Their survival is the number one things that we’re working for, and we should open up more shelters.”
She also wants the city to take a more active role in the public school system. She works in the systems and thinks choice enrollment is another way of segregating schools, “with no one going to their home schools anymore.”
Schools with majority minority populations tend to be underfunded, Porteous said, resulting in fewer afternoon activities and other benefits. She pointed to Lincoln High, a mostly Latino which she says struggles with funding.
“You can have a bigger voice in the policy decisions that are being made in Denver Public Schools,” Porteous said.
Her platform will take a more solid shape as she goes door to door and talks to district residents, she said.
David Sabados wants you to know he’s a renter. That worldview is central to his identity as a candidate for Denver City Council’s District 1.
Renters are a huge constituency. About half of city residents rent homes, according to city documents. Sabados, a political and nonprofit consultant at Compass Strategy Group, says they’re marginalized.
“It’s a needed voice on council,” Sabados said in an interview. “I think renters face a lot of different issues than homeowners. And sometimes it’s hard for well-intentioned people making policy to understand the challenges renters face if it’s not the same challenges that they’ve tried to go through themselves.”
Sabados, 36, says he wants to create protections from predatory landlords who try to make tenants pay non-refundable deposits and give short notice before selling a house, leaving renters in a lurch (both of these things have happened to him). Homeowners tend to have a louder voice through registered neighborhood organizations, too, Sabados said, who have different concerns.
The other leg of his housing platform has to do with accessory dwelling units — the little homes built on the property of bigger homes. Owners can rent them to supplement their income and stay put if they’re in danger of getting priced out. Meanwhile, ADUs add affordable rental options to the housing stock and add density without adding tall buildings that face scrutiny from change-averse neighbors.
Denver’s been talking about these flats for years. City staffers and nonprofits are working to streamline the process for residents, and the city’s newest land use plan calls to allow them pretty much everywhere (they’re largely banned now). Sabados said he’s aware of the movement on this.
“I also know that getting it in a proposal is different than getting it passed and certainly if elected I would work to get that passed and implemented,” Sabados said.
The candidate’s other issues center on transit and transparency. He wants to see Denver take more control of the transit system by “buying up” service from the Regional Transportation District, like Boulder does with its Hop, Skip and Jump lines
“We can work with RTD, but they are the regional organization,” he said. “But we need to look specifically at how we can be doing buy ups to create better mass transit within our own city. And I think ultimately if we can create those lines and use them, we can demonstrate ridership and make some of those lines financially sound.”
Michael Somma also just filed to run.
A candidate named Michael Somma joined the race Friday. We’ll let you know when we know more.