Thursday, March 5, 2009

Denver: Affordable housing through TOD--- will it work?

City to buy real estate

Denver will spend $15 million over the next 10 years acquiring property near mass transit for affordable housing.
By Margaret Jackson
The Denver Post

Over the next 10 years, Denver will spend about $15 million buying properties near mass transit in an effort to preserve and create affordable housing.

With seed money from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation totaling $2.25 million, the city has been able to leverage additional private investment into the Denver Transit-Oriented Development Fund. The city is investing $2.5 million in the fund, with $2 million coming from franchise-fee revenues from Xcel Energy.

Denver is among 12 cities and states to receive $32.5 million in funding from the foundation.

Other investors in the fund include Enterprise Community Partners, Urban Land Conservancy, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, Rose Community Foundation and the Mile High Community Loan Fund.

The Urban Land Conservancy is expected to be the sole borrower from the fund and will be responsible for property acquisition and establishing partnerships for redevelopment. Formed in 2003 by a loosely affiliated group of real-estate professionals, the organization's mission is to acquire land and buildings to be developed for community needs, such as affordable housing, early-childhood programs, senior care and charter schools.

The fund is expected to preserve and create up to 3,000 affordable housing units. The focus will be on rentals, but there will be some homes for sale.

"The gap between supply and demand for affordable housing is about 12 million units across the country," said Sister Lillian Murphy, chief executive of Mercy Housing. "The preservation work is absolutely critical, particularly when there's more and more pressure because of the foreclosure situation."

A primary goal of the Transit-Oriented Development Fund is to preserve and expand affordable housing within a half-mile of existing and new rail service and a quarter-mile of frequent bus routes. Denver working families who earn between $20,000 and $50,000 annually spend 59 percent of gross income on housing and transportation costs, according to a 2006 study by the Center for Housing Policy.

"Proximity to light rail and TOD is a crucial part of this," Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper said.

Planners for FasTracks made sure the lines went to places with open pieces of land so high-density housing could be developed, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper said.

Margaret Jackson: 303-954-1473 or

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