In the Denver Metro Region, gentrification and displacement are becoming critical issues. With investment in development of our urban core, along transit lines and in other areas of opportunity, skyrocketing rents, rising property taxes and cultural disruption of neighborhoods means that communities in which there has been historic underinvestment are now being pushed out of neighborhoods at the very moment they stand to reap the greatest gains of employment opportunities, services and other amenities.
As a multi-sector collaborative, committed to ensuring our region’s transit system fosters communities that offer all residents the opportunity for a high quality of life, Mile High Connects hosted a call to action event on April 19th. During our early morning event, over 100 people from across sectors and communities joined us and heard from community residents about their experiences around displacement, rising rents, shifting community fabric, and evictions. They listened to federal government leadership talk about their investments to disrupt poverty and increase diversity of housing choices. We also heard about strategies being implemented to increase economic opportunity.
This event served as the touchstone and call to action for the release of our Access to Opportunity Platform: A Regional Call to Action to Address Our Gentrification and Displacement Crisis. The platform outlines strategies and recommendations around housing, place/community and culture, and economic opportunity. Click here to download the platform.
The Denver region’s economy has been booming for many years, but a significant portion of the population is increasingly left behind. Across the seven county Denver metro region, there are over 175,000 low-income households experiencing housing insecurity: over 6,300 homeless persons, over 106,000 renters paying more than half of their monthly income on rent, and over 63,000 homeowners paying over half their monthly income on housing costs. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of housing insecure households increased by 70%! These households are forced every month to make tough decisions – choosing whether to pay their housing/utility bills or buying groceries, paying for housing or transportation to get to work or get their children to school.
Enterprise Community Partners is a proud member of Mile High Connects. There are too many great resources and too many great people in this region to allow these inequities to exist. That is why we continue to lead efforts like the Denver Regional Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Fund, why we are partnering with the City of Denver on the region’s first Social Impact Bond transaction to provide critical intervention services for formerly homeless individuals with severe mental illnesses and/or substance abuse issues, why we are working with local, regional, and statewide agencies on a collaborative effort to preserve existing affordable housing and prevent displacement of low-income families, and why we are working hand in hand with our MHC partners and many other organizations and community members to fight for a permanent, dedicated source of local funding for affordable housing.
These challenges are great and many, but they are not impossible. Mile High Connects envisions a region where every individual and family in the Denver region has access to opportunity, and at Enterprise, we believe that opportunity begins at home. We look forward to our continued partnership with Mile High Connects in reversing this region’s growing trend of housing insecurity.
Wells Fargo began the next phase of our Denver NeighborhoodLIFT program launched a year ago. In close collaboration with Denver Mayor Hancock and the Denver Office of Economic Development, we announced donations totaling $500,000 to help address Denver’s needs around neighborhood revitalization, preparing individuals and families for homeownership, and supporting small businesses.
The grants are going to 10 nonprofits for efforts that align with the City’s JumpStart 2015 initiatives. We expect that more than 78,000 individuals, families and local businesses will receive assistance as a result of the grants. While we know this one program can’t solve Denver’s need for quality, affordable housing and create the path to homeownership on its own, we hope this small step will help make a big difference in our community.
Since 2012, with a combined $230 million investment ($5.65 million in Denver) by Wells Fargo, LIFT programs have been introduced to 32 communities deeply affected by the housing crisis. The program has created more than 8,750 homeowners (250 in Denver), with the help of down payment assistance and homebuyer education. A video about the NeighborhoodLIFT program is posted on the Wells Fargo YouTube Channel. Also collaborating with Wells Fargo on the program are NeighborWorks America and its Metro Denver affiliate, Community Resources Housing and Development Corporation.