NEIGH­BORS SEEK LAND TRUST

Mem­bers of a coali­tion want to pro­tect their com­mu­nity as an over­haul looms.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Jon Mur­ray

Mem­bers of a com­mu­nity coali­tion in Globeville and Elyria-Swansea say they see the signs of a loom­ing dis­as­ter for long­time res­i­dents, ev­i­dent in sky­rock­et­ing prop­erty tax bills, rent hikes and spec­u­la­tive home­buy­ing that are push­ing more peo­ple out.

Mem­bers of a com­mu­nity coali­tion in Globeville and Elyr­i­aSwansea say they see the signs of a loom­ing dis­as­ter for long­time res­i­dents, ev­i­dent in sky­rock­et­ing prop­erty tax bills, rent hikes and spec­u­la­tive home­buy­ing that are push­ing more peo­ple out.

Armed with new sur­vey data show­ing the hous­ing and eco­nomic pres­sures fac­ing 500 res­i­dents, the coali­tion on Tues­day an­nounced a drive to raise money and launch a com­mu­nity land trust. It’s a long-con­sid­ered ef­fort that would in­volve par­tial own­er­ship of prop­er­ties by a non­profit with the aim of sta­bi­liz­ing home prices and keep­ing the neigh­bor­hood af­ford­able for dozens or even hun­dreds of res­i­dents.

But how that land trust would work and whether com­mu­nity lead­ers can raise enough money re­main open ques­tions.

One leader es­ti­mated a ro­bust com­mu­nity land trust pro­gram would need $2 mil­lion to $3 mil­lion at the start, but it could re­quire even more, ex­perts sug­gest.

In com­ing weeks, mem­bers of the coali­tion plan to ap­peal to city of­fi­cials for fi­nan­cial help they see as long over­due.

“The in­creases in the cost of liv­ing leave home­own­ers se­verely vul­ner­a­ble to preda­tors like the real-es­tate and fix-and-flip com­pa­nies,” ac­tivist Rey Gal­le­gos said at a news con­fer­ence out­side Fo­cus Points Fam­ily Re­source Cen­ter. It was or­ga­nized by the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea Coali­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Health and Jus­tice.

“Now they send let­ters, they hang signs, they post fliers, they even call — and some­times they just knock on your door to try to get peo­ple to sell their homes or move out of a neigh­bor­hood, just to al­le­vi­ate fi­nan­cial woes,” he said. “So, all these fac­tors are cre­at­ing more stress, more pres­sure, and im­pact the phys­i­cal and men­tal health of our com­mu­nity.”

Home prices have been march­ing up­ward all over Den­ver, and Elyria Swansea re­cently saw spikes in of­fi­cial val­u­a­tion av­er­ag­ing more than 50 per­cent.

That area and Globeville — both neigh­bor­hoods with heav­ily Latino pop­u­la­tions that have been there for gen­er­a­tions — are an epi­cen­ter of change.

Mas­sive gov­ern­ment projects are set to re­make the area in the com­ing years — from the state’s $1.2 bil­lion In­ter­state 70 widen­ing project to the $1.1 bil­lion Na­tional Western Cen­ter ini­tia­tive, led by the city of Den­ver, that’s set to re­de­velop the stock show cam­pus into a year-round en­ter­tain­ment, agri­cul­ture and ed­u­ca­tion cen­ter.

A com­mu­nity land trust might make sense for the neigh­bor­hoods, at least in the­ory. But the de­tails quickly get com­plex.

“We would wel­come the con­ver­sa­tion,” said Erik So­liván, Den­ver Mayor Michael Han­cock’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of Hous­ing and Op­por­tu­ni­ties for Peo­ple Ev­ery­where, or HOPE.

At the most ba­sic level, such a land trust would in­volve a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion ne­go­ti­at­ing own­er­ship on the land be­neath the house, and then leas­ing long-term to whomever owns the home. Covenants or other le­gal restric­tions would al­low some home ap­pre­ci­a­tion, but would keep the home price af­ford­able for a fam­ily of mod­est means.

Coali­tion di­rec­tor Nola Miguel said a land trust could as­sem­ble a patch­work of sin­gle- and mul­ti­fam­ily prop­er­ties in the neigh­bor­hoods, buy­ing and re­selling some homes, while rent­ing out oth­ers. The group also could ne­go­ti­ate with home­own­ers to place their houses in the pro­gram to pro­tect their af­ford­abil­ity in per­pe­tu­ity.

The coali­tion will look for pub­lic and pri­vate sources to help launch such a trust, Miguel said. One po­ten­tial source is a roughly $15 mil­lion-a-year hous­ing fund cre­ated last year by the City Coun­cil.

The land trust ef­fort has some in­flu­en­tial or­ga­ni­za­tions in­volved for what neigh­bor­hood lead­ers hope will be a demon­stra­tion project. The Ur­ban Land Con­ser­vancy hired a firm to con­duct a fea­si­bil­ity anal­y­sis for the area, and the Colorado Com­mu­nity Land Trust, which got its start build­ing mostly new town­homes un­der a land-trust model in the Lowry neigh­bor­hood, also is signed up to help, the coali­tion says.

“There has been a lot of work to­wards that goal and we will con­tinue to work with our part­ners to nur­ture a strong GES Com­mu­nity Land Trust for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions,” Colorado Com­mu­nity Land Trust di­rec­tor Jane Har­ring­ton said in a state­ment.

The com­mu­nity coali­tion’s part­ners also in­clude Project Voyce, FRESC, Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity, Ground­work Den­ver, Clin­ica Tepeyac and The GrowHaus.

But city of­fi­cials are not yet on board to help pay for a land trust’s for­ma­tion.

So­liván said com­mu­nity lead­ers in other low-in­come neigh­bor­hoods with sim­i­lar hous­ing pres­sures, in­clud­ing West­wood, have be­gun to look at land trusts as a pos­si­bil­ity to fight gen­tri­fi­ca­tion.

So­liván had ex­pe­ri­ence with them when he worked in Phil­a­del­phia, but he cau­tioned that land trusts are a com­plex tool that need thought­ful con­sid­er­a­tion to ad­dress hous­ing dis­place­ment — an­other term for gen­tri­fi­ca­tion — and keep homes af­ford­able.

“What we’re re­cep­tive to is land trusts as a tool,” said So­liván, adding that city of­fi­cials have been look­ing at their po­ten­tial ap­pli­ca­tion in many ar­eas of the city as they put to­gether a mul­ti­year hous­ing strat­egy plan. “That is some­thing that we were al­ready look­ing at be­fore the GES Coali­tion came out. … But it’s a com­plex tool that re­quires a lot of thought­ful­ness and a lot of ex­per­tise.”

At Tues­day’s news con­fer­ence, Vir­ginia Calderon, who has lived in Elyr­i­aSwansea for 26 years, urged city of­fi­cials to get in­volved.

“We want to stay in our com­mu­nity,” she said. “If our health and well-be­ing is not a pri­or­ity for the city, we don’t have a fu­ture here. We in­vite the mayor to re­spond to the cri­sis that is di­rectly af­fect­ing the com­mu­ni­ties in need.”

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