“As a nationwide affordable housing crisis continues to inflict pain on renters and would-be homebuyers across the Centennial State, a tool that gets little public attention has emerged as a key means to get more people into homes they can afford.
This tool also helps stabilize neighborhoods struggling to deal with increased property values and an influx of new money.
For 15 years, land trusts have been quietly helping people buy homes in Denver’s Lowry, Cole and Speer neighborhoods through the nonprofit Colorado Community Land Trust.
Land trusts, typically 501c3 nonprofit organizations, work like this: They buy and refurbish homes or bring on developers to build homes on land they own. They then sell those homes to income-qualified buyers (usually making 80 percent or less of the area median income) at deep discounts. That’s according to Jane Harrington, the longtime executive director of the land trust.
Efforts to create new trusts and extend that reach have been ramping up since 2017 and are now poised make big impacts this year and beyond. That expansion starts with one house in Aurora.
Officials with the fledgling Elevation Community Land Trust and the city of Aurora gathered late last month to celebrate the organization’s first home getting ready to hit the market. It’s a renovated five-bedroom house on Kenton Street. Aurora matched the donation-backed land trust’s investment in the property dollar for dollar, officials said. Once Elevation’s staff gets an income-qualified family into that home, it will move on to seven other houses in the surrounding neighborhood, all expected to be occupied by the end of the year, said Elevation president and CEO Stefka Fanchi.
Ultimately, through partnerships with Aurora, Denver, Longmont, Loveland and potentially other Colorado cities, Elevation is aiming to establish a network of 700 permanently affordable housing units across Colorado. Its pipeline includes 60 scattered homes in Denver and a 92-unit affordable condo project near the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Santa Fe Drive. By making them permanently affordable, Fanchi views the properties Elevation is acquiring and building with development partners as community assets, as valuable as roads and bridges.
“We can’t have a functioning economy and functional society without providing places for people to call home,” said Fanchi, the former head of Habitat for Humanity of Colorado. “When it comes to homeownership, that’s the largest asset that most people own in their lifetime, and what a land trust does is really helps provide that valuable asset for a family but also makes it so it becomes a community asset, a piece of public infrastructure.”
Harrington’s Colorado Community Land Trust is set to sell a townhouse this month for less than $200,000. It appraised for $418,000. The land underneath the home remains the property of the trust and is leased to the homeowner for a self-renewing 99-year term.”
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Rubino, Joe. Denver Post 8 July 2019.