Developers Shannon Cox Baker and Susan Powers are teaming up to build affordable housing in River North, a neighborhood in Five Points that sorely needs it.
Baker and Powers are building a five-story apartment building that will provide a portion of the 15% of affordable housing master developer JV Denargo Market LLC committed to providing at the 13-acre Denargo Market mixed-use development.
Designed by Shears Adkins + Rockmore, the project at 2700 Wewatta Way. will have 56 one- and two-bedroom apartments as well as common residential amenity spaces, staff offices, a social enterprise retail space and surface parking. It will provide permanently affordable housing for transition-age youths ages 18 to 25 years old.
“It’s a unique slice of the population moving from being dependent on adult and moving into adulthood,” said Baker, founder of Riven Development Partners. “They have high rates of trauma and instability through poverty or unstable living situations. They have unequal and intermittent educational opportunities and a high rate of finding themselves homeless.”
When project is completed late in 2023, the Boulder-based nonprofit TGTHR will provide onsite support services. TGTHR, formerly Attention Homes, partners with local health organizations and provides behavioral health service, from counseling for families with the goal of reunification to small group sessions and individual check-ins. The organization, which has been working to end youth homelessness for more than 50 years, also helps young people with their education and provides employment counseling and planning.
“We’ll be there seven days a week delivering services to people living in the building,” said Baker, who worked with TGTHR on a project in Boulder.
Powers and Baker applied for low-income housing tax credits to help fund the project, which will serve people earning 50% or less of area-median income (AMI), although the developers expect most residents will be earning less than 30% AMI. They expect to know whether they’ll be approved for the tax credits in November.
“There’s no affordable housing that’s being built with any of the development happening on that side of Brighton Boulevard,” said Powers, founder of Denver-based Urban Ventures. “Hopefully, we can get the residents stabilized and they can find employment.”
The city has approved the concept plan for the project, which is still being designed. Powers and Baker said they expect the project will be under construction in about a year.
The lack of affordable housing has reached a crisis level in Colorado, according to a recent white paper by the Common Sense Institute. The report estimates that the state needs to develop 54,190 new housing units annually over the next five years if the state has any hope of returning to a more stable housing-to-population ratio. That will require adding 7,500 new skilled laborers each year as well.
“Despite housing being a foundational human need, its cost burden has threatened too many Coloradans’ way of life,” the report’s authors Evelyn Lim and Peter LiFari wrote. “We need transformational changes that can bridge the divide we have in our communities that has led to a broken housing development value chain.”
Lim is director of policy and research at the American Cornerstone Institute, and LiFari is executive director of Maiker Housing Partners.
The Metro Denver Homeless Initiative’s 2020 Point in Time Count & Survey found that of the 6,104 people experiencing homelessness in metro Denver, 278 of them were “unaccompanied youth” — people younger than 25 who are not accompanied by a parent or guardian and are not a parenting youth.
Emergency shelters housed 2,911 people, 1,582 people south transitional housing and 1,561 remained unsheltered, according to the annual survey.
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