Project aims to mitigate zooming costs of housing

Loan fund also will address rents with eye toward helping nonprofits


The cost of housing in the Denver metro area has made it impossible for many Coloradans to afford a home. In the once-affordable suburb of Lakewood, for instance, online real estate marketplace Zillow says home values have gone up 7.5 percent in the past year to a median value of $366,200, with a forecast of a 4.4 percent increase in the coming year, making things even more difficult for potential buyers.

Emerging through the scorching hot real estate market is a loan fund from a project called the Metro Denver Impact Facility.

Urban Land Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that uses real estate to benefit urban communities in the Denver area, announced in November that it would launch the Metro Denver Impact Facility. The facility is expected to become a $50 million project that will help Urban Land Conservancy acquire land in order to preserve affordable housing, nonprofit buildings, schools and community space throughout the Denver metro area.

In addition to the skyrocketing cost of ownership, high rents are hurting. Christi Smith, the vice president of strategy and communications for Urban Land Conservancy, pointed out that rent prices have left some residents displaced. The impact of high rent prices affects more than those who are looking for a place to live — nonprofit organizations have also felt the sting.

“We’re contacted by nonprofit organizations all the time asking if we have availability in any of our buildings, or if we can help them, or if we can find a building where they can run their programs,” Smith said.

Smith said the Metro Denver Impact Facility has already been put to use. Urban Land Conservancy used it to acquire the Harlan Nonprofit Center, a 29,000-square-foot building that serves as the headquarters for Lutheran Family Services, a dental practice and a law firm that focuses on education and civil rights law. The building is located at 363 S. Harlan St. in Lakewood, and it was purchased for $3.69 million.

“The Denver region is no longer an equitable place to live and work, and our goal with this new resource is to stimulate additional local low-cost investment to support more permanently affordable housing and nonprofit facility spaces, thereby creating opportunities for all residents to live, work and play in the communities of their choice,” Aaron Miripol said in a statement. Miripol is the president and CEO for Urban Land Conservancy.

The Metro Denver Impact Facility is expected to grow to a $50 million community resource within the next few years. FirstBank contributed $25 million to the facility, while Colorado Housing and Finance Authority also contributed $2 million.

Other organizations involved with the Metro Denver Impact Facility include The Denver Foundation and the Colorado Health Foundation.

“We’re only as successful as our communities are. We’re thrilled to be involved with Urban Land Conservancy, and we’re excited to see where else (the Metro Denver Impact Facility) will take us to,” said Stu Wright, executive vice president of FirstBank in Lakewood.


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