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West Denver housing policy leaders celebrate pilot program's first accessory dwelling unit

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Posted at 4:47 PM, Sep 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-22 20:04:34-04

DENVER — Denver housing authority leaders celebrated Friday the completion of their pilot program's first accessory dwelling unit, aimed at providing more affordable housing in the west part of town.

An accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, is a self-contained living space that is an extension of a pre-existing property. In 2021, the Denver Housing Authority and West Denver Renaissance Collaborative (WDRC) launched an ADU Pilot Program.

“We're happy to say that we've gotten to a place where we've impacted 30 households. That's 15 ADUs and we have just as many in the pipeline preparing themselves for construction next year,” Renee Martinez-Stone, Denver Housing Authority director of planning and data, said Friday. “Accessory dwelling units are so helpful for a family. They provide stability for homeowners, they provide affordable rent.”

Martinez-Stone said the program helps homeowners build ADUs by connecting them with resources.

“So what's critical in that is, we have partners — including the Habitat for Humanity — and lenders who are working in all the different levels to deliver affordability. So we're lowering the cost of construction, we are providing a unit that doesn't have to draw very high rent to pay for the construction of the unit,” Martinez-Stone said. “ADUs have an average rent of $800 a month.”

West Denver housing policy leaders celebrate pilot program's first accessory dwelling unit

Yoseph Assefa is the owner of the three-bedroom, one-bathroom ADU at the center of Friday’s celebration. Assefa was the first applicant of the program.

“We moved in here in 2016… when we got under contract and got this house, did a little bit of research on the city's website and we realized that it was a double lot or, basically already approved for multi-units. So that was the first thing that I noticed,” Assefa said. “I went to the neighborhood meetings when they first launched the program and they had an application system online. So I just got on, applied, it took a while for them to get back to me, but they got back to me. They got me with a housing counselor to make sure that I could afford it, to make sure that there's enough equity in the property to be able to do it.”

Assefa said it took one year to complete construction, but most ADUs can be completed in less time.

Assefa credits Habitat for Humanity for making the construction process easy by walking his family through each step.

“The Habitat for Humanity's contact, his name is Daniel, he was incredibly transparent, gave me all the heads up about when the construction was going to start, how long it was going to take,who's going to be here on a daily basis,” Assefa said. “I think, you know, everybody talks about how the housing crisis is affecting our city and affordable housing is an issue. I just feel really good to take part in helping solve the problem, I think this is a program that allows you to kill two birds with one stone, make us you know, increase our equity, increase our income, but also help somebody that needs stability.”

Assefa’s ADU costs $275,000 to complete and Martinez- stone said that is thanks to the ADU fund.

“Now there are very few places in Denver that you could build a three-bedroom unit for $275,000, this homeowner is fantastic. They financed this ADU and they will be renting it out. On average our 15 ADUs have, they have an average rent of $800 a month. So that is far below what they could charge. This unit itself could rent for $2,500,” Martinez- Stone said.

She told Denver7 she looks forward to seeing the program expand.

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