By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4) – The City of Denver has shut down an apartment building in the Curtis Park neighborhood to “protect the residents,” but now those residents have found themselves living in the park with nowhere to go.

The building, located at 2736 Champa Street, was one of the last in the area with “affordable rent.” Tenants paid an average of $435 a month, according to the owner Art Vasquez.

But City of Denver Environmental Health records show the building has been cited with numerous code violations over the past two years.

curtis park neighborhood City Shuts Down Affordable Housing, Tenants Now Living In Park

(credit: CBS)

The neighborhood has undergone an evolution. Old historic homes have been restored and new residences are going up.

And then there’s the building that has been shut down. The doors and windows are boarded up, and a notice on the door reads “order to vacate.”

In the park itself is where CBS4 found many of the tenants living now. One of those showed CBS4 investigator Rick Sallinger a garbage bin filled with their belongings.

“Here’s our shelter, here’s eggs, needs to be cool, and here’s our food and canned goods,” Abel Garcia said.

curtis park 1 City Shuts Down Affordable Housing, Tenants Now Living In Park

(credit: CBS)

The now-displaced tenants do not dispute conditions they were living in were bad.

“Not even fit for a dog to live there,” Garcia said.

They described feces, infestations and lack of running water in some places.

They claimed they paid the rent to the owner just before the city shut the place down. Mandy Montoya blames the building owner.

“It was all planned out. They waited for us to pay our rent then kicked us out,” she said.

The city says it had little choice but to shut the building down.

“Safety of the tenants was in question and that’s something the City and County of Denver cannot tolerate,” said Calvin Young, the supervisor of Public Health inspections for the City of Denver.

Young showed CBS4 pages of reports on code violations inspectors noted on the building. He said after collaborating with the police and fire departments and other city agencies they moved in to close the buildings.

The occupants were given paperwork on where to find shelter and legal aid, but the tenants say what they really need now is emergency housing.

Denver Human Services told CBS4 it encourages anyone without a safe place to sleep to take shelter with one of its partner organizations. It says the city can offer a variety of services to individuals in special scenarios. Those benefits can include motel stays, shelter information, bus passes and more.

The building owner, Art Vasquez, is now facing citations that could bring fines and jail time.

As for the tenant’s rent, he told CBS4 he did not receive any rent for September except from one tenant through an assistance organization.

He said any rent money would be returned if the tenants can prove it was paid.

Vasquez issued a statement reading, “2736 Champ has provided housing for an underserved low income community for many years.” He said he would like to meet with the tenants and his property manager to iron out the conflicting information.

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

  1. The headline was irresponsible and unfair to the City. The city did not shut down affordable housing. This fire trap was next to other frame buildings. It it caught fire, especially on a windy day, many people might have died.

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