MHC Updates

Affordable Housing & Community Facilities

Know an Organization or Business in Need of Space?
According to the 2015 Nonprofit Space Survey Final Report, published in June, many nonprofit and for-profit community-benefiting organizations and small businesses in the Denver metro area successfully negotiated lease rates during the recession that will soon end. Surveyed nonprofit respondents reported currently paying on average $11.57 per square foot, while market rates in Metro Denver were $21.45 per square foot for Class B space as of the close of Q2 2016. MHC is launching a Tenant Pipeline with our partner, Denver Shared Spaces, to strategically connect community-oriented businesses, social enterprises and nonprofits with affordable commercial space, thinking ahead to future needs and availability. This is the first program of its kind to systematically support the space needs of organizations and small businesses that are so important to our community. Do you know of an organization who could benefit from participating in this program? Please contact Megan Yonke at myonke@denversharedspaces.org.

Dedicated Revenue Fund for Affordable Housing Established
On September 19, MHC and many of our partners celebrated a historic moment in Denver history! After more than 18 months of discussions, debates, analysis, and stakeholder gatherings, the Denver City Council voted 9-4 in favor of passing Council Bill 16-0625 – a bill that creates a dedicated revenue fund to support the creation and preservation of affordable housing in Denver. The Fund, capitalized with a combination of property taxes and impact fees on new real estate development, will generate approximately $150 million over the next ten years and is expected to create and preserve at least 6,000 affordable homes for low income residents of Denver.


Business, Local Workforce, and Middle Skilled Jobs

Learning Cohort for Anchor Institutions
The work of MHC and The Denver Foundation around engaging major institutions in creating community benefit continues to grow. In 2017, we will convene a year-long group for local anchor institutions committed to engaging the communities in which they hold deep roots. These anchors – universities, hospitals, governments and other institutions with long-rooted investments – recognize the wealth of potential they hold and are eager to learn from each other about how to connect with their communities. The learning cohort will focus not only why anchor are vital institutions but how they can engage in anchor institution work. We’ll explore how to effectively support local businesses through contracting, training opportunities that support local hire programs, and opportunities to maximize local investment through community development. Anchors will walk away with an understanding of what it takes to build a solid anchor mission framework.


First & Last Mile Connections

Invest Health Convening
Five-person teams from 50 mid-sized American cities gathered in Denver September 28-30 at the Invest Health Second National Convening. Invest Health grants are awarded by the Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help municipalities and their partners design and implement projects that enhance health and equity through infrastructure investments. As a member of the Westminster team (which includes the City of Westminster, Adams County, Tri-County Health Department and Regis University), MHC worked closely with the funders’ staff in the months prior to the convening to design the program. MHC partners Felicia Griffin (FRESC), Neha Mahajan (9 To 5) and Lizeth Chacon (Colorado People’s Alliance) were featured on a panel to discuss effective strategies for community engagement and participation. Executive Director Dace West provided a practical perspective to presentations about developing collaborative frameworks and financing strategies that highlighted the work of the organization in the Denver region. DRCOG staff offered demonstrations of the on-line Regional Equity Atlas and Development Project Pipeline (under development as part of the Capital Absorption Project) created in collaboration with MHC.

Grantee Highlights

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Cultivando works in the Promotora Model across South Adams County to foster and support community-driven affordable housing advocacy and policy solutions. Cultivando Promotoras work to organize and train community members living in mobile home parks and vulnerable affordable housing units to understand the pressure on their housing costs and to understand and identify solutions, and then to advocate collaboratively with decision-makers. Simultaneously and informed by community, Cultivando staff advocates to local decision makers about inclusive policies and practices that both include diverse community members in decision making AND push for long-term, creative affordable housing options that meet the needs of mixed-documentation status families and others.

Cultivando believes that the best policies are community-driven, and that those impacted by inequality and health disparities MUST be at the table in order to create effective solutions. Our communities will only benefit from transportation and housing improvements IF they can access them and afford them.

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MHC Updates

Affordable Housing & Community Facilities

Affordable Housing Revenue Fund
The City of Denver’s proposed Affordable Housing Revenue Fund has taken a major step forward. The proposal, estimated to provide $156 million in revenue over its first 10 years, passed unanimously thru City Council Committee on August 24th by unanimous vote and is headed to the full City Council floor. The proposal will be heard by the full City Council on September 12th. The final vote and 1 hour of public comment will occur on September 19th at 5:30 pm. MHC and many of its Steering Committee partners have been actively engaged in this 18 month process, working with the City to establish this much needed resource as well as the governance and eligible uses of its resources. Denver Residents are encouraged to sign an endorsement letter created by the city and/or leave feedback for the city on the housing proposal using this link.

Recent updates to the Fund:
· Mayor Hancock has committed to using $5 million from the general fund in the first year to ensure a full $15 million of available funds.
· ADU’s and other additions under 400 sq. ft. are exempted from the development fee


2016 Grantees

Our June 2016 grant cycle was the most competitive to date with 21 applications from groups and organizations throughout the Denver Region. After sharing back the information gleaned from site visits and engaging in robust discussions, the MHC Grant Fund Committee chose to fund 10 organizations, including an emerging resident group from Lakewood. MHC is excited to announce the 2016 grantees:

Cultivando (formerly Community Enterprise) | Grant Amount: $22,000

Project Description: Cultivando will focus on a promotora-led community education, engagement, and collective advocacy on affordable housing, gentrification, accessible/affordable transit and community-driven policies that protect low-income families from displacement. They will work with agency partners and community members to amplify community-driven policy solutions to the complex problems of affordable housing.

Colorado Jobs with Justice | Grant Amount: $25,000

Project Description: Colorado Jobs with Justice will build on the grassroots organizing that they initiated with their coalition members last year for an income-based fare and pass program. They will also build the capacity of their members to speak and take on leadership roles within the work and integrate the work into their Fair Chance and Caring Across Generations Campaign to engage formerly incarcerated individuals, elderly, disabled, and home care providers.

Colorado People’s Alliance (formerly Rights for All People) | Grant Amount: $22,000

Project Description: Colorado People’s Alliance will continue their work on the income-based pass, 50% discount for those living at or below 150% of the poverty level. They also will lead the work on protecting critical bus routes in Original Aurora. And given their transition from Rights for All People to COPA, they will work to connect the transit work to the larger strategies aimed at the economy.

Colorado Cross Disability Coalition | Grant Amount: $22,000

Project Description: Colorado Cross Disability Coalition will continue their data-driven transportation focused advocacy for people with disabilities. This includes training current advocates and community outreach to secure positions for people with disabilities in decision-making spaces on policies.

GES Right to Live Well | Grant Amount: $22,000

Project Description: GES Right to Live Well will convene a collaborative, GES Development without Displacement Nonprofit Coalition, which is comprised of GES community leaders, allies, and stakeholders to launch a GES-based Housing Campaign and Resident Leadership Organizing Committee. The Committee will build community owned solutions centered on the most critical issues identified by GES neighbors: affordable housing, affordable transportation, and protection of the unique community.

Growing Home | Grant Amount: $22,000

Project Description: Growing Home will continue to implement its Bocks of Hope project with the leadership of its community organizer. It will expand outreach to the community to address changes due to the TOD and resulting impacts on the local housing market.

Los Gables (resident group) | Grant Amount: $10,000

Project Description: Veronica Jimenez, Guadalupe Gonzales, and Yolanda Hernandez propose to engage residents/mothers from the Gables Zone in advocating for bus stops and increased bus frequency in the neighborhood.

Montbello Organizing Committee | Grant Amount: $20,000

Project Description: Montbello Organizing Committee will continue to ensure that Montbello residents have access to transit offerings that connect them to housing, healthy food, education, and jobs.

Project VOYCE | Grant Amount: $22,000

Project Description: Project VOYCE will initiative a youth Block Captain leadership development and community organizing project in GES to develop a campaign focused on improving access to affordable housing, affordable and equitable transportation access, development, and community renewal.

Streetsblog Denver | Grant Amount: $16,540

Project Description: Through a part-time reporter Streetsblog Denver will expand its focus on transit issues, including housing, workforce, and equity as well as research and write longer, more investigative pieces on transit and Denver’s growth.


First & Last Mile Connections

Broadway Bikeway
On August 15, the City and County of Denver opened a two-way parking protected bikeway between Virginia and Bayaud on Broadway. The opening of the Broadway Bikeway demonstration project is the culmination of an extensive planning and public engagement process. It will be open for three months and will provide data about multi-modal operations on this vital transportation route that will inform the development of permanent protected bike lanes. This is a critical link to downtown for bicycle commuters and serves as a connection to the Alameda Light Rail Station. Cyclists are encouraged to ride the bikeway and provide feedback to the City by completing the survey at denvermovesbroadway.com/survey. For more information about the project visit denvermovesbroadway.com.

Denveright
Denveright is an effort by the City and County of Denver to comprehensively plan its future through a community-driven process. It consists of four integrated plans.

• Blueprint Denver – Blueprint promotes urban design goals that result in a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly environment, increased transit service on major corridors, shared parking in business districts and more housing in mixed-use areas. This update will continue the work that began 15 years ago with the original Blueprint and help the City meet changing demands and conditions.
• Parks Game Plan – The Game Plan emphasizes the vision of “a city in a park” and a set of core values: the environment, engagement, equity and sound economics. It focuses on providing quality recreational amenities citywide, especially in the neighborhoods that need them most. The plan revision will define new parks and recreation centers, relevant programs, and how existing assets are maintained and enhanced in the face of financial constraints, climate change, shifting demographics and increased use.
• Denver Moves: Pedestrians and Trails – This plan will help make walking a viable primary way for people to get around comfortably and safely. With guidance and input from the community, the plan will identify citywide needs and define priorities for improving and connecting Denver’s pedestrian and off-street trail network. It also will examine costs, funding options and policies required to achieve the community’s vision.
• Denver Moves: Transit – For the first time, and with input from the community, Denver is planning for local transit choices and improvements to move people around town safely and reliably. This plan will create a local vision that will build on and complement RTD’s regional system. It also will take a closer look at implementation strategies and funding options for local transit improvements.

Mile High Connects serves on Blueprint Denver task forces and the two Denver Moves task forces. Denveright provides an important opportunity to shape the future of the City and ensure opportunity for everyone who lives and works here. There will be a series of surveys that provide opportunities for input by the entire community. Please encourage your friends and neighbors to learn more about Denveright and provide their opinions here.

Grantee Highlight – GES Right to Live Well

Preventing Resident Displacement in Globeville Elyria Swansea

Why do we need to power map? Because residents are being involuntarily displaced from Globeville Elyria Swansea neighborhood daily, local schools are 10-25% down in enrollment, and many existing residents have little protection from being displaced (lack of a contract, resources, lawyers, money). GES histories and peoples are worth preserving and GES is a culturally rich and connected neighborhood. A great deal of capital is being invested in the neighborhood and has the potential to displace over 100 families. All of these factors have spurred residents into action to preserve their community.

Power mapping enables us to strategize together about what next steps to take to build power at the community level. We believe community led and owned solutions will address the issues at hand best, and organizing together can change the power dynamic we are currently experiencing. Stay tuned for a report from over 500 residents in GES surveyed on housing and workforce development. This work is led by the GES Housing Campaign, which is comprised and supported by residents and local organizations with roots in GES.

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Power Mapping Session with GES Resident Leaders and GES Housing Coalition Organizations

MHC Partner Highlight – Denver Regional Council of Governments

The Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) is one of the nation’s oldest councils of governments and serves the region as a planning organization, technical assistance provider and forum for visionary local governments. Through a strong focus on regional growth and development and transportation, DRCOG is deeply invested in improving mobility choices for people of all ages, incomes and abilities, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing access to opportunity.  Partnering with Mile High connects furthers DRCOG’s efforts to connect local governments, stakeholders, and the public to accessible data and information.

Launched in 2014, the online Denver Regional Equity Atlas has continued as an ongoing partnership between DRCOG, MHC and the Piton Foundation to help raise awareness about the benefits and opportunities that a robust public transportation network can create. The Atlas emphasizes the need to ensure access to opportunity for everyone in the region, especially improving connections for the region’s low-income residents.

Throughout the past year, DRCOG and MHC have partnered again to develop and fine tune a new online application called the Development Project Pipeline. The pipeline application will connect developers with investors in the Denver region, creating an environment that can formally and predictably support impact investments that have far reaching community benefits. Of particular interest are development opportunities that leverage the transit system and influence positive change in areas such as affordable housing, economic opportunity and healthy communities.

Community Member Highlight – Douglas Howey, Colorado Cross Disability Coalition Advocate

In recent years, CCDC volunteer Douglas Howey has been the strength behind a lot of the CCDC transit advocacy. As a physics teacher who uses a wheelchair, he is uniquely equipped to engage in productive discussions about space on the buses and trains. Douglas was helpful in our resolution of an RTD bus services problem that was facing the disability community, and it was because of his advocacy that buses now have the area for stuff, such as groceries, right behind the securement area. As a lifelong transit user (many years before he had a disability), Douglas is a strong advocate for transit that works for everyone. Douglas was even featured in an ad for RTD about the commuter rail and light rail expansion.

Douglas also noticed that there were some safety issues with newly purchased Access-A-Ride vans; as a result, those problems are getting fixed today. Douglas is a valued member of the APAC which is RTD’s ADA paratransit advisory committee and designed a pilot online reservation program for Access-A-Ride. This new online reservation system will be very helpful for users that have limited phone minutes or speech disabilities when calling for reservations. Douglas is currently continuing to work on Access-A-Ride issues, helps CCDC advise RTD on training, and is trying to figure out a better way for buses to accommodate people who use walkers as mobility aides.

A graduate of the CCDC 8-week Basic Advocacy Training, today Douglas is a CCDC certified non-attorney advocate and CCDC Member. Transit related advocacy has become his specialty. Too often there is an assumption that low-income people with disabilities do not have anything to offer and certainly cannot be useful in high-level policy discussions or complex highly technical planning. Douglas is one of the many CCDC advocates who prove this fallacy to be wrong every day.

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Douglas Howey, CCDC Advocate

MHC Updates

Affordable Housing & Community Facilities

Shared Spaces At Transit Hubs – How Transit Access And Shared Spaces Go Hand-In-Hand hosted by Denver Shared Spaces and Medici Communities
Learn from the incredible collaborative work of DSS partner Mile High Connects on how shared spaces are being incorporated into transit oriented developments, intersecting nonprofits with housing and services while addressing the need for quality employment and affordable fares. You won’t want to miss this given the immense amount of development currently underway in our region. Click here to register.

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City & County of Denver – Dedicated Revenue Source for Affordable Housing

Mile High Connects and many of its Steering Committee Organizations are deeply engaged in the ongoing conversation at the City & County of Denver regarding the establishment of a permanent, dedicated revenue source to support affordable housing preservation and development. Negotiations and stakeholder discussions remain ongoing, but the current proposal is to capitalize this resource with a combination of a 0.5 mill increase in property taxes and a new impact fee, ranging from $0.40 to $1.70 per square foot depending on development type) on all new development in the City. Based on current assumptions, the City estimates this will create approximately $155 million in new revenue over the next 10 years. MHC remains committed and supportive of the plan overall and is committed to remaining engaged with all relevant departments within the city to help shape the governance, public engagement, and utilization of the resources should the proposal pass City Council. MHC encourages all Denver stakeholders to engage in the process if you haven’t already. See the updated tentative calendar of events as it relates to this proposal Revised Housing Calendar (2016 07-26).


Capital Absorption – Leadership Forum

The Mile High Connects Capital Absorption Team hosted a Leadership Forum at the Denver Foundation on July 28, which was attended by over 40 leaders in the government, non-profit, development, brokerage, philanthropic, and private investment fields. The group engaged in a lively conversation about how to best achieve the ultimate goal of the Capital Absorption work, which is to build sustainable systems and structures to deploy public and private capital into strategic projects that create or preserve affordable housing, community serving commercial facilities, and mixed-use developments in low-income communities near transit. The team shared with the group its efforts to date and received valuable feedback and creative ideas for how we might continue to drive the work forward for the remainder of this year and into 2017, including the buildout in partnership with DRCOG, of a regional community development pipeline designed to help connect project sponsors with impact investors looking to place capital.


Three Things to Consider About the Nonprofit Real Estate Market

While skyrocketing housing costs are at the forefront of our minds, it’s also important to bear in mind the impact of rising commercial real estate rates as well. The risk for small businesses and nonprofits of being priced out of Denver is extremely high, according to the report released by Denver Shared Spaces. Nonprofit Centers Network, and Mile High Community Loan Fund. Learn more about the potential for displacement, ways to combat rising costs, and check out Mayor Michael B. Hancock’s commitments regarding nonprofit space here.


Upcoming Training and Feedback Opportunities

Sharing Your Inspiring Stories
The Denver Foundation has launched an interactive website called Floodlight for nonprofits to connect with donors of the Foundation. If you have an inspiring story to share, come learn how to build your story by using the platform. When: August 22nd, 9:00 – 11:00 am. Space is limited! Contact Carmen Holleman, cholleman@denverfoundation to RSVP or for more information. 
Denveright
As Denver continues to grow and change, what are your biggest concerns? What changes in land use, mobility, parks and recreational resources would make life in Denver more enjoyable? Click here to take the Community Vision Survey. 

Grantee Highlight

With support from Mile High Connects, Growing Home is working with community members in the Blocks of Hope neighborhood to advocate for affordable housing and development. The project is focused in Southwest Adams County, a neighborhood which is already feeling the impact from two future RTD stations. Alma Garza is a natural community leader, “I felt that that I never or rarely had a say in what happens in my neighborhood. But, I’m excited things are changing. I have always been interested in fighting for what my community needs. I finally feel like my interests are being heard, words are being put into action. I am an immigrant mother of three and I’m organizing with Growing Home. Together with Growing Home we are identifying and developing community leaders who can give voice to community needs and perspectives in decision making forums and strengthen our neighborhood. With the help of Growing Home, we are organizing the 500 unit apartment where I live, probably one of the only ‘affordable places’ within Blocks of Hope. The tenants are addressing security, repairs, and employee relations. We are working hard to ensure that tenants know their rights, we are also building a sense of community and accountability in the buildings .We are bringing tenants from different buildings together that are experiencing common problems. There’s power in numbers!” *translated from Spanish

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Blocks of Hope Resident Leaders

MHC Partner Highlight – Tri-County Health Department

Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) is the local public health agency for Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties providing a wide range of public health services to 1.4 million residents in the Denver Metropolitan region. TCHD promotes, protects and improves the lifelong health of individuals and communities through the effective use of data, evidence-based prevention strategies, leadership, advocacy, partnerships, and the promotion of health equity. Since research has shown that a person’s health and the likelihood of becoming sick are greatly influenced by powerful social and economic factors such as access to stable housing, economic opportunity, and education, TCHD believes health is at the forefront of Mile High Connects’ multi-sector problem-solving approach to these complex topics. Participation with Mile High Connects furthers TCHD’s efforts to bring health considerations to policy and system change work in non-health sectors. A well-planned regional transit system will not only improve housing options, access to jobs and access to good schools, it is the vehicle for good health.

Community Highlight

Westwood is a neighborhood in southwest Denver, SW of the corner of Federal & Alameda. The auto-oriented streets have narrow sidewalks and are poorly lit. Westwood Unidos organizes community members to help them achieve their priorities for a safer and healthier community. Resident-led projects include improving sidewalks, slowing traffic, improving transit access, and improving lighting.

In  2014 – 2015, with support from Mile High Connects, Westwood Unidos and 9to5 Colorado successfully advocated for the Route 4 Bus Line to be re-opened on Morrison Road.  Since then, the route has been a big success; ridership numbers have justified the need for this route in the Westwood community.

On July 18th, the community celebrated a big victory with the successful passage in City Council of the Westwood neighborhood plan.  Community members testified in support of the plan, which recommends calming traffic, increasing transit access, improving greenways, allowing for accessory dwelling units, and building a recreation center.

In 2016, the Westwood Unidos Safety Action Team has been busy beautifying the neighborhood to make walking and biking safery. Their project creates a safe walkway along 8 alleys that connect Federal Boulevard and local schools. These 8 alleys are overgrown with brambles and weeds, covered with graffiti, and full of dumped furniture and trash, making it impossible to walk safely and comfortably.

In order to tackle these alleys, on Saturday, April 23 Extreme Community Makeover and Westwood Unidos organized over 300 volunteers from Westwood and surrounding communities to pick up trash and clean graffiti during “Go Westwood!   On June 28 and July 16, dozens of residents tackled the alleys again, continuing to clean graffiti and beginning to install art. The goal is to complete the alley on July 28th with the installation of art and mosaics and painted tires.

Finally, Westwood Unidos has partnered with various organizations to train youth leaders with a focus on economic opportunities and access to nature. In addition to testifying successfully in front of City Council, the youth leaders are semi-finalists in a grant to open a youth-run bike workshop.

Community members and partner organizations interested in getting involved in Westwood Unidos are welcome to the monthly Westwood Unidos Safety Action Team meeting, every 4th Monday of the month at 9 AM at Paloma Villa, 4200 Morrison Road.  

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Alley Project in Westwood

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