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Denver leaders working to increase the number of affordable housing units

A 62-unit condo project to be built in the Five Points neighborhood
RTD parking lot in Five Points.jpg
Posted at 5:51 PM, Jun 17, 2024

DENVER — Finding affordable housing in Denver can be challenging. City leaders want to make things easier by increasing the number of affordable housing units in the city.

But some are raising concerns about a proposed affordable housing project in the Five Points neighborhood.

Jordan Dietrich has seen a lot of change since moving to the Five Points area over a decade ago.

“It used to be a little bit more kind of funky. It's now a little more mild,” Dietrich said.

Five Points is one of the city’s fastest-growing neighborhoods and is ripe for redevelopment.

With that growth comes the need for affordable housing.

That’s why the city is looking to build a 62-condo housing development for moderate to lower-income families. The development would sit where an RTD parking lot currently sits at the corner of 29th and Welton.

Denver leaders working to increase the number of affordable housing units

“That makes the American Dream of home ownership very much real for 62 more families,” said Derek Woodbury with the Denver Department of Housing Stability (HOST). “It brings 62 more families and households to the neighborhood.”

The city is partnering with Elevation Community Land Trust (ECLT) on the project.

ECLT said the condos would be income-restricted.

“Homes will be priced affordably for households earning below 80% of the area median income, and will be permanently affordable under the community land trust model,” said Stefka Czarnecki Fanchi, the president and CEO of ECLT. “Preference will be given to buyers with current or historic ties to Five Points, which has experienced rapid and dramatic displacement.”

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Denver's historic Five Points neighborhood has seen a lot of redevelopment over the last decade.

The condos would include one, two, and three-bedroom units.

The Denver City Council is considering a $1.6 million funding agreement and a loan of $3.3 million to build the development.

It’s one piece in a larger effort to increase the number of affordable housing units in Denver.

Mayor Mike Johnston hopes to build or preserve at least 3,000 affordable housing units each year over the next eight years.

According to a city dashboard, the city has helped preserve or build 534 affordable housing units since Johnston took office in July 2023.

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Since Mayor Johnston took office, Denver has helped build or preserve 534 affordable housing units, according to the city's dashboard.

Other partners on the project include RTD, which owns the property, Shanahan Development, Denver Urban Renewal Authority, and the State of Colorado (CDOH).

Many in Five Points applaud the effort.

“I mean if it's affordable housing, I'm all for it,” said Five Points resident Nick Boly.

“I mean, it makes sense for growth to happen here. It's kind of old city and it's a parking lot, so it's not tearing down a historic structure or anything like that,” said Dietrich.

But progress doesn’t come without a price.

Flynn Dickerson’s family owns Welton Street Café, the oldest business in the neighborhood.

They will soon reopen at their new location directly across the street from the RTD parking lot.

Many people shopping at nearby businesses park in the lot.

“I feel like there's no other place to park, and I know that people need housing, but they also need parking,” said Sondra Young, the president of the Denver NAACP.

Dickerson said he had been counting on the parking lot being available for his customers as well.

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City-owned parking lot outside the Elbra M. Wedgeworth Municipal Building in Denver's Five Points neighborhood. This is where Dickerson is hoping his restaurant patrons will be able to park in the evenings.

“We have a 100-capacity-seat restaurant and where are people going to park?” asked Dickerson. “If you make it hard for people to get to you, then it's going to be crazy.”

He said he’s hoping the city will let patrons in the evening park at a city-owned parking lot located about half a block from his restaurant.

We took his concerns to HOST, which referred us to the Departments of Finance and General Services.

Josh Rosenblum, a spokesperson for the Denver Department of Finance, said the parking lot in question is for the Elbra Wentworth Municipal Building, which includes a DMV office and an office for Denver City Councilman Darrell Watson.

Rosenblum said the city had not heard from business owners about potentially using the parking lot, and said the city wants to make sure the parking lot is available for customers from 7 a.m. to at least 5 p.m.

“While our real estate team, who’d be the ones to discuss leasing any city property, including parking areas, hasn’t heard from any business about this so far, we do want to see our local businesses thrive, and succeed,” said Rosenblum.

As for more affordable housing options in Five Points, many believe it’s long overdue.

Dietrich said he just hopes whatever is built doesn’t change the character of the neighborhood too much.

“I really hope that Denver can value the historic quality of this area and maintain it,” said Dietrich.

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