Denver Condo Project Aims for 'Permanent Affordability'

More often the province of rental housing, affordability policies are limited in the for-sale market. A partnership in Denver aims to change that with a mixed-use project including at least 86 condos destined to be "permanently affordable."

January 9, 2019, 9:00 AM PST

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

Housing Construction

Tom Grundy / Shutterstock

In a city that "has mostly prioritized, and subsidized, affordable rental development," Emily Nonko writes, developer Jeff Shanahan was hard-pressed to find incentives to build homes affordable to working-class buyers, teachers in particular. 

To see what could be done with a 18,000-square foot parcel in Denver's Santa Fe Arts District, he looked to a nonprofit, the Urban Land Conservancy, which brought aboard the Elevation Community Land Trust. Founded in 2017, the trust has secured "$24 million in initial funding to acquire 700 homes across the city and surrounding suburbs, and, in the traditional community land trust model, lease the homes at affordable prices."

In December, Nonko writes, "the partners announced the Santa Fe Arts District lot would become home to 92 new condominiums, at least 86 to be permanently affordable for households earning $40,000 to $72,000 in annual income. The mixed-use project, called Inca Commons, will also include 4,000 square feet of commercial space."

The Elevation Community Land Trust will own the ground, distinguishing these for-sale units from market-rate housing and keeping prices down permanently. Aaron Miripol, president of the Urban Land Conservancy, believes the model has advantages over deed restrictions, which typically expire and can be opaque to homebuyers.

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