New Affordable Housing Announced, But Some Say Progress Is Too Slow

By Melissa Garcia

DENVER, Colo. (CBS4) – A developer on Tuesday announced the opening of a new affordable housing community in Stapleton.

For some, however, the building of affordable housing in Denver is not happening fast enough.

Forest City, the developer under contract with the city of Denver to develop the Stapleton neighborhood, is required to make an average of one out of every 10 homes “affordable.”

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(credit: CBS)

According to Housing and Urban Development, “affordable” in the Denver area means that the home would be within purchasing reach of a two-person family earning $51,300 per year or less.

So far, Forest City has fallen behind its mark on the building pace of affordable housing as compared with the pace of its at-market price home building.

Vacant lots in Stapleton that are designated for affordable housing are sitting undeveloped.

One future affordable housing site on 21st Avenue and Trenton Street has sat vacant for over a decade, according to Mike Rafferty, a neighbor who lives down the block.

“The lot has been there so long, it kind of makes you think of where (the developer’s) priorities are,” Rafferty said.

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Forest City began building homes in Stapleton in 2002.

Per an agreement with the city of Denver, 10 percent of all for-sale homes in Stapleton must fall into the category of affordable housing, allowing people who otherwise could not afford to buy to become homeowners.

Carol Weaver recently purchased one of 25 affordable units at the new Spruce Townhomes on 29th Avenue and Central Park Boulevard. Prior to becoming a homeowner she faced difficult times affording rent as do countless other residents challenged by Denver’s housing crisis.

“Rents are high, and I moved from a very high rental,” Weaver explained. “The high rent was just unbelievable, very hard.”

As Stapleton home development nears completion, only 5.8 percent of the area’s homes, just a little over half of the requirement, are affordable.

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Damon Knop, a member of the Citizen’s Advisory Board, is frustrated with the slow pace.

“At this point, it feels like they’ve kicked the can down the road far enough that it’s going to be very hard for them to jam in that amount of affordable units in a proper way,” Knop told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia.

The developer, however, says it is committed to fulfilling the 10 percent affordable housing agreement by the time build-out is complete.

“We have subsidized every single unit of the 787 affordable units at Stapleton, whether that is rental or for-sale,” explained Tom Gleason, Vice President of Forest City. “So we’ve made our commitment, we’ve put our money where our mouth is.”

CBS4 reached out to the city of Denver for comment. The city’s housing director said that he is optimistic, but is looking into legal options if the developer does not meet the affordable housing requirement by the time building is complete.

Development completion could be just a couple of years away.

Melissa Garcia has been reporting for CBS4 News since March 2014. Find her bio here, follow her on Twitter @MelissaGarciaTV, or send your story idea to mkgarcia@cbs.com.

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