Innovations in Affordable Housing

  • Over 175,000 households in Colorado pay more than half their income for housing.* 
  • Rent in Denver has risen nearly 47% over the past 10 years, ranking behind only the Bay Area.** 
  • The estimated shortage of housing units in Colorado is expected to exceed 32,000 units this year.**
  • The cost of both rent and home ownership has been rising rapidly in our state, while wages have largely remained stagnant.*** 
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Affordable housing has traditionally been primarily funded through government programs at the Federal, State, and local levels. Yet, those programs are increasingly insufficient to meet the needs in our communities. Low Income Housing Tax Credits are the largest subsidy source, but they are often oversubscribed 4 to 1. Section 8 Housing Vouchers are not accepted by most landlords. Thousands of these vouchers remain unusable each year. The City of Denver has set aside an additional $15 million per year for affordable housing, yet this funding remains insufficient to support the affordable housing need in the city. All of these resources are necessarily being focused more and more on the formerly homeless and the lowest income households in our communities. As a result, thousands of families with steady jobs are increasingly finding it difficult to find affordable housing. There is a great need for innovation in affordable housing, and our guests on March 21st were those innovators.  

Julie Mihevc with Housing 180 has launched one of the latest innovative programs from the folks who created Cafe 180 on Broadway in Englewood and Good Turn Electric Cycles in Littleton. Housing 180 connects with people struggling to find housing and provides them with support and rental assistance for two years. With their rental property partners, they provide 2/3s of the rent payment for 1 year, 1/3 for a 2nd year, and then help their clients transition to stable housing on their own in the 3rd year. 

Heather Lafferty and Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver have a long history of building and selling affordable homes to lower income families. They facilitate home ownership for 50 to 60 homes every year. However, the need for affordable homeownership opportunities in Denver continues to increase faster than homes can be built. In response, Habitat is launching Affordable Home Mortgage Solutions, LLC to provide mortgages to lower income families that will increase their purchasing power and enable them to buy homes in Denver's rapidly appreciating real estate market. Their mortgages will offer below market interest rates, no PMI, and low down payments. To facilitate this impactful business, the organization is seeking investment from local foundations, banks, and impact investors who will receive a modest rate of return while helping 400 families achieve their dream of homeownership. 

Karen Gados with Pikes Peak Capital Holdings launched their work to enter into the traditionally predatory market of sub-prime lending and home foreclosures in early 2017. They are breaking the cycle of sub-prime lenders foreclosing on struggling home owners and then recycling the same home back into more predatory lending businesses. Pikes Peak is purchasing foreclosed properties at deep discounts, and then selling those homes to lower income families at reasonable prices with favorable financing options based primarily on their income rather than their past credit history. They also provider their home buyers with credit counseling, opportunities to add value and equity to their homes, and education regarding the opportunities and options that home ownership provides for them. Pikes Peak is seeking additional investors to help them expand beyond their initial pilot of 14 homes, offering market rate returns. 

Craig Metrick with Cornerstone Capital Group discussed several ways to support affordable housing through accessible investment opportunities through Ours to Own Denver and mutual funds such as those offered by Community Capital Management. Beyond personal investing, he encouraged everyone talk to their retirement plan providers and the various institutions they are connected to regarding integrating social issues like affordable housing into their investment portfolios. 

Whether you are a young activist or a retired executive, we can all work together to address the need for affordable housing. Whether you have $20 or $1 billion, there are numerous opportunities to deploy those dollars to address this issue through both grants and investments. We hope that this event helped to spark new innovative ideas and inspired all of us to move more capital into affordable housing.


For those of you who were not able to attend, here is a handout we provided showing ways to both give and invest in supporting affordable housing.  




*Colorado Fiscal Institute
**Real Page Research
**Shift Research Lab in partnership with Phyllis Resnick, PhD