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Denver agencies are at odds over how to manage affordable housing

Audit found the city is not managing the rules
Posted at 5:05 PM, Aug 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-16 20:49:04-04

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DENVER – Denver's auditor says the city is failing to preserve affordable housing, not putting enough muscle into enforcing the rules, and, in one instance, wasting thousand of dollars in taxpayer money.

“We found problems with how the city is keeping homes affordable, keeping people in those homes, and tracking affordable homes to ensure they are not misused,” Auditor Tim O’Brien said. “The city needs to be better equipped to preserve its limited affordable housing inventory and to help people who need the housing get access and stay in those homes.”

The 68-page audit report found 21 cases where the city gave money to non-Denver residents as a part of the city's rental and utility assistance program, totaling $24,688.

"I would say that $20,000 out of the thousands of people served in the program is not significant," Denver's Chief Housing Officer, Britta Fisher, said.

Fisher is defending her office and the work they are doing around affordable housing.

"Some of the zip codes on our borders are shared with other cities," Fisher said. "Some of our other non-profits had been accepting zip codes that some of those addresses within that zip code weren't in Denver."

Fisher said they have already fixed the problem with the zip codes and do take the audit seriously, but there are some areas where they disagree.

"We've got 92% compliance, we're working very hard everyday to make sure we get as many homes in compliance as possible," she said.

“I am disappointed Economic Development has chosen not to take seriously all of our recommendations to rectify the issues identified in our report,” O’Brien said. “Our recommendations could help city leaders move forward with a much more efficient and effective new approach to affordable housing.”

The Denver Auditor's Office also found one instance where a homeowner was profiting by renting out an affordable home for $3,000 per month. It also said the city isn't checking in annually to make sure the homeowner is actually living in the home.

Additionally, the auditor said Denver failed to submit a complete list of affordable homes to the assessor's office which resulted in more than 50 homes overpaying on their property taxes. As a result, the city will have to return around $40,000 in refunds.

"We've made major investments into sales force-based database that helps us to track all of that," Fisher said. "I think we've addressed it and we continue to refine as we move forward."